clear
Friday October 20th, 2017 5:48PM

Self-driving cars: Not ready yet, but new rules open a path

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Although consumers can't yet get a self-driving car for themselves, the technology's long and windy road to market is getting shorter.

A public rollout is not imminent. Companies need to perfect the technology before unleashing it for regular drivers, and that means more of the highway and road testing that began several years ago.

Still, California's Department of Motor Vehicles formally proposed rules Wednesday that starting next year will govern how everyday people in the trend-setting state can get robocars. It was a big step forward for regulations that were first discussed more than four years ago, first drafted in December 2015 and then substantially redrafted to accommodate companies' concerns.

Several other states also are vying to get these cars of the future into the hands of their residents.

What should the public know about access?

IS THE TECHNOLOGY SAFE?

Safety is paramount, both as a selling point and a potential liability.

Traditional automakers and Silicon Valley upstarts are trying to teach cars to drive in different ways, but all agree that cars which don't drink, text, fall asleep or drive erratically can save thousands of lives lost to crashes. If the technology were reliably better than human drivers, however, it would be nearing a launch which most companies say is a few years away.

At the same time, in California alone the 42 companies with testing permits have been logging hundreds of thousands of miles on nearly 300 prototypes with few crashes that were clearly the technology's fault.

That testing requires a trained safety driver behind the wheel, just in case the onboard computers and sensors fail. States including Arizona, Michigan and Texas, also have hosted testing.

Unlike earlier iterations of California's regulations, the current proposal would follow the lead of the federal government, which wants to let companies self-certify the technology is road ready. That is the same approach as human-driven cars, to which consumer advocates retort that such a huge leap in technology should require outside scrutiny before its public launch.

WHAT WILL THE FIRST CARS LOOK LIKE?

A lot like the cars on the road today.

Though some companies have experimented with cars that lack a steering wheel or pedals, those kinds of advances are likely several years beyond the first models. The reasons are both practical and about perception: The cars may still need a human backup to take control in emergencies, plus much of the public may not be ready to hand over total control to a machine.

WHEN WILL ANY OF THESE CARS BE AVAILABLE?

Consumers probably won't be able to walk into a dealership and buy a fully driverless vehicle next year. Major automakers like Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Nissan and Volvo have all said it will be closer to 2020 before those vehicles are available, and even then, they could be confined to ride-hailing fleets and other shared applications.

Tesla Inc. says the cars it's making now have the hardware they need for full self-driving. The company is still testing the software and won't make it available to owners without regulatory approval.

Industry leader Waymo, as the former Google self-driving car program is known, is not commenting on its rollout schedule.

It's also possible, if not likely, that the technology will proliferate not as a car that one person owns but rather a shared vehicle that riders can summon with an app or subscription.

WHAT ABOUT THE FEDS?

Automakers and tech companies have complained to lawmakers that a growing "patchwork" of state laws is threatening to inhibit deployment.

Legislation intended to clear away federal regulations has moved quickly through Congress. The House has passed a bill that would permit automakers to seek exemptions to safety regulations, such as to make cars without a steering wheel, and allow the sale of hundreds of thousands of self-driving cars. A Senate committee approved a similar measure last week by a voice vote.

___

Joan Lowy in Washington and Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed.

___

Contact Justin Pritchard at https://twitter.com/lalanewsman .

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Business, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Self-driving cars: Not ready yet, but new rules open a path
Although consumers can't yet get a self-driving car for themselves, the technology's long and windy road to market is getting shorter
7:00PM ( 9 minutes ago )
As scope of Weinstein conduct widens, questions of who knew
As the grim scope of Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual abuse has continued to expand, attention is turning to the question of who knew about the film's mogul's behavior
6:49PM ( 20 minutes ago )
The Latest: Entire California town ordered to evacuate fire
Authorities are ordering all residents of the Northern California town of Calistoga to evacuate, saying "conditions have worsened"
6:47PM ( 22 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Facebook exec meets with lawmakers amid Russia probe
One of Facebook's top executives has told lawmakers investigating the company's Russia-linked ads that it is serious about dealing with the issue
6:27PM ( 43 minutes ago )
Trump turns back to tax overhaul; pitch aimed at truckers
President Donald Trump is pitching his tax plan as a boost for truckers, saying, "America first means putting American truckers first."
6:26PM ( 43 minutes ago )
Delta sees 3Q profit slip, hints at higher average prices
Delta's third-quarter profit slips, but the airline hints at higher average prices for the rest of the year
6:25PM ( 44 minutes ago )
AP Business
Trump threatens NBC but experts see no real risk to licenses
President Donald Trump threatened NBC Wednesday because he's not happy with how they have covered him
3:36PM ( 3 hours ago )
Zuckerberg sorry for virtual tour of devastated Puerto Rico
Mark Zuckerberg has apologized for showcasing Facebook's virtual reality capability with a tour of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico
10:07AM ( 9 hours ago )
Russia scores temporary win against US on cybercrime suspect
Russia has won the latest bout in a judicial tug-of-war with the U.S. over who should try a Russian cybercrime suspect arrested during a summer holiday in Greece
8:44AM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Technology News
As scope of Weinstein conduct widens, questions of who knew
As the grim scope of Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual abuse has continued to expand, attention is turning to the question of who knew about the film's mogul's behavior
6:49PM ( 20 minutes ago )
The Latest: Entire California town ordered to evacuate fire
Authorities are ordering all residents of the Northern California town of Calistoga to evacuate, saying "conditions have worsened"
6:47PM ( 22 minutes ago )
The Latest: Trump hails truckers as 'heroes'
President Donald Trump is hailing truckers as heroes at a Pennsylvania event promoting his tax plan
6:45PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Andrew Wiggins signs contract extension with Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves signed Andrew Wiggins to a new contract extension
6:36PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Judge weighs trial for teen accused of taping girl's suicide
A Utah judge was considering whether an 18-year-old accused of filming the suicide of a high school classmate should go to trial on murder charges
6:34PM ( 35 minutes ago )