The First Automated Cars Will Probably Need Licensed Drivers At the Wheel

January 28, 2016, 4:52 PM UTC
A self-driving car traverses a parking lot at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California on January 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NOAH BERGER / AFP / Noah Berger (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Noah Berger—AFP/Getty Images

While Google (GOOG), Tesla (TSLA), and even traditional car companies like Ford (F) are racing to create self-driving cars, the California Department of Motor Vehicles is doing its part in the innovation bonanza, too.

On Thursday, the department is holding a meeting in Sacramento to gather opinions on the automated car regulations it is finalizing. The regulations, which the DMV plans to release by next year, don’t give automated cars run of the road, according to Bloomberg.

The regulations would require a licensed driver to be in the car, and for the driver to have the immediate ability to take over from the automated system. That driver would also be responsible for traffic violations committed by the car’s system.

When the DMV first released its plan last month, critics said that it stifled the full potential benefits of automated cars. In a blog post, Google self-driving car project director, Chris Urmson, called the draft rules “perplexing.” “This maintains the same old status quo and falls short on allowing this technology to reach its full potential, while excluding those who need to get around but cannot drive,” he wrote.

In the draft rules, the DMV wrote that it isn’t permanently discounting the potential for cars to get around without a licensed driver. “Given the potential risks associated with deployment of such a new technology, DMV believes that manufacturers need to obtain more experience in testing driverless vehicles on public roads prior to making this technology available to the general public,” the draft summary says.