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It’s Not Science Fiction, Driverless Cars Are A Thing Of The Very Near Future


The prospect of relying on anyone or anything to do my driving is a dream.  A dream on its way to becoming a reality.

It’s Not Science Fiction, Driverless Cars Are A Thing Of The Very Near Future

It is just a matter of time before consumers will be able to buy cars that rely on computers — not the owner — to do the driving!

This is not science fiction folks! Driverless cars, AKA autonomous vehicles, could be commercially available by decade’s end. Before then, the DMV needs to decide how to integrate the cars onto public roads.

Volvo's Driverless Car Image courtesy of ceoutlook.com

Volvo’s Driverless Car
Image courtesy of ceoutlook.com

Tuesday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles held an initial public hearing, puzzling through how to regulate the public’s use of the technology that is still being tested.

Among the complex questions officials wanted to unravel:

How will the state know the cars are safe?

Does a driver even need to be behind the wheel?

Can manufacturers mine data from onboard computers to make product pitches based on where the car goes or set insurance rates on how it is driven?

The DMV is scrambling to regulate the broader use of the cars. With federal government apparently years away from developing regulations, California’s rules could effectively become the national standard.

California’s DMV must finalize the regulations by the end of the year.

Much of the initial discussion Tuesday focused on privacy concerns.

California’s law requires autonomous vehicles to log records of operation so the data could be used to reconstruct an accident.

But the cars “must not become another way to track us in our daily lives,” John M. Simpson of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog said at the hearing. Simpson called out Google, saying the Internet giant rebuffed attempts to add privacy guarantees when it pushed the 2012 legislation, which mandated rules on testing and public operation.

Seated across from Simpson at the hearing’s head tables was a representative from Google, who offered no comment on the data privacy issue.

Discussion also touched on how to know a car is safe and whether an owner knows how to safely operate it. In initial iterations, human drivers would be expected to take control in an instant if the automated driving fails.

Ron Medford, Google’s director of safety for its “self-driving car” project, suggested that manufacturers should be able to self-certify that their cars are safe. He cautioned that it would get complicated, fast, if the state tried to assume that role.

DMV attorney Brian Soublet asked who would ensure that owners know how to use the new technology. Should the onus be on dealers, manufacturers, owners?

Representatives of automakers suggested they shouldn’t be asked to guarantee the capability of owners. One, from Mercedes-Benz, said the DMV could test owners on basics such as starting and stopping automated driving.

The facts of this article were contributed by the Associated Press.

It’s Not Science Fiction, Driverless Cars Are A Thing Of The Very Near Future

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