Robot Cars: Just a Sig Away from Legal in CA, Privacy Groups Protest



The California Senate unanimously this week passed a bill to allow autonomous vehicles — robot cars — to test on California roads as you see below. Now it needs just one sig to become law here in Silicon Valley. OMG. Ready, Bay Area?

If California governor Edmund Brown Jr. signs it, Google autonomous cars — aka Google Robot cars — will be running wild on San Francisco and Menlo Park freeways.

They’ll be legal to test and drive — but with a lot of regulations attached. Because you can’t throw a pink bike in the Bay Area without hitting a Google employee, I imagine we here in the Bay Area will see quite a few on the 101 and 280.

Here’s the bill most expect the governor to sign, as amended below. Source: LegInfo

According to Wired:

California moved closer this week to becoming the second state in the US — the first was Arizona in earlier this year — to push development, regulate and “permit autonomous vehicles to be operated or tested in … this state,” according to the so-called SB 1298 bill now in front of the desk for approval.
Though privacy watchdogs have been trying decry the bill, saying robot cars need security safeguards for data they might capture, Google is plowing ahead with its autonomous cars.

It was a strong proponent of this bill.

Even without a law allowing it, Google has been testing its own autonomous vehicles all over California roads.

Here’s Stanford robot car innovator Sebastian Thrun showing a Google autonomous car cruising around San Francisco, hugging the tight turns on curvy Lombard Street in San Francisco. Thrun now leads the robot car effort as a full time employee of Google.  

At TED Talks 2011, above, Thrun claims his goal is to save a million lives a year with these robotic self-driven car, which he believes are infinitely safer then typical cars combined with human error.  Great video. But the privacy controvery over SB-1298 is heated.

ConsumerWatchdog.org barked loudest. It writes:

In the call to amend or block the bill, SB 1298, came in a letter to Assembly Speaker John A. Perez from Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog President and John M. Simpson, the nonprofit group’s Privacy Project Director. They wrote:

“Without appropriate regulations, Google’s vehicles will be able to gather unprecedented amounts of information about the use of those vehicles.  How will it be used?  Just as Google tracks us around the Information Superhighway, it will now be looking over our shoulders on every highway and byway.”

Click here to read Consumer Watchdog’s letter.

Takeaway: SB 1298unanimously passed the California Senate this week. It is a signature away from California law.  Privacy advocates worry robot cars will record us constantly — there are no controls for privacy, they worry. Read the legislation to see if you agree. It’s below.Nevada was the first state to let the Google car in. That wyas in May. Remember when Nevada officials made a huge deal about  the issuance of the first special robot car license plate.  It went to Google.Got some time to read more? Here’s the bill Brown has to read. We’ll see if he sign it. It’s in legalese — source is here — but we’ve posted the bill for you in full below so you can come to your own conclusions.

BILL START

AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY AUGUST 24, 2012
AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY AUGUST 20, 2012
AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY AUGUST 07, 2012
AMENDED IN ASSEMBLY JUNE 19, 2012
AMENDED IN SENATE APRIL 16, 2012
AMENDED IN SENATE APRIL 09, 2012

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2011–2012 REGULAR SESSION

SENATE BILL No. 1298

Introduced by Senator Padilla

February 23, 2012

An act to add Division 16.6 (commencing with Section 38750) to the Vehicle Code, relating to vehicles.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

SB 1298, as amended, Padilla. Vehicles: autonomous vehicles: safety and performance requirements.
Existing law requires the Department of the California Highway Patrol to adopt rules and regulations that are designed to promote the safe operation of specific vehicles, including, among other things, schoolbuses and commercial motor vehicles. Existing law also requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to register vehicles that are being operated in this state and to issue a license plate to an applicant for the operation and identification of that person’s vehicle.
This bill would authorize the operation of an autonomous vehicle, as defined, on public roads for testing purposes, by a driver who possesses the proper class of license for the type of vehicle being operated, or without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle, if an application is submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles and specified conditions requirements are met, including that the driver be seated in the driver’s seat, monitoring the safe operation of the autonomous vehicle, and capable of taking over immediate manual control of the autonomous vehicle in the event of an autonomous technology failure or other emergency. The bill would prohibit, except as provided for testing purposes, the operation of such a vehicle on public roads until the manufacturer submits an application to the department that includes various certifications, including a certification that the autonomous technology satisfies certain requirements, and the application is approved by the department pursuant to the regulations that the department would be required to adopt. The department would be authorized to charge a fee for the application in an amount necessary to recover all costs reasonably incurred by the department. In cases in which the autonomous vehicle is to be operated on public roads for testing purposes, the bill would require, among other things, that the driver be seated in the driver’s seat, monitoring the safe operation of the autonomous vehicle, and capable of taking over immediate manual control of the autonomous vehicle in the event of an autonomous technology failure or other emergency. To otherwise operate an autonomous vehicle on public roads, the bill would require the manufacturer of the autonomous technology to provide an autonomous vehicle that satisfies specific criteria. If there is no person in the driver’s seat, the operator is the person who causes the autonomous technology to engage in the vehicle, and the bill would authorize the department to impose additional requirements it deems necessary to ensure the safe operation of that vehicle. The bill would require that one of the certifications to specify that the autonomous vehicle’s technology meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for the vehicle’s model year and all other applicable safety standards and performance requirements set forth in state and federal law and the regulations promulgated pursuant to those laws.
The bill would require, prior to January 1, 2014, that the Department of Motor Vehicles adopt regulations as soon as practicable, but no later than January 1, 2015, setting forth requirements for the submission and of evidence of insurance, surety bond, or self-insurance required by the bill and requirements for the submission or approval of an application to operate an autonomous vehicle, including any testing, equipment, or performance standards, as specified, and to hold public hearings on the adoption of any regulation applicable to the operation of an autonomous vehicle without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle. The bill would provide that federal regulations promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration supersede state law or regulation when found to be in conflict. The
The bill would require the department to approve an application submitted by a manufacturer upon making specified findings and would authorize the department to impose additional requirements if the application seeks approval for autonomous vehicles where there is no person in the driver’s seat. The bill would also require the department to notify the Legislature of the receipt of an application from a manufacturer seeking approval to operate an autonomous vehicle capable of operating without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle and the approval of the application. The bill would provide that approval of the application is effective no sooner than 180 days after the date the application is submitted.
The department would be authorized to charge a fee for the application in an amount necessary to recover all costs reasonably incurred by the department.
DIGEST KEY
Vote: majority Appropriation: no Fiscal Committee: yes Local Program: no
BILL TEXT
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Development is actively under way of new technology that, through the use of computers, sensors, and other systems, permits a motor vehicle to operate without the active control and continuous monitoring of a human operator. Motor vehicles with this technology, referred to as “autonomous vehicles,” offer significant potential safety, mobility, and commercial benefits for individuals and businesses in the state and elsewhere.
(b) Autonomous vehicles have been operated safely on public roads in the state in recent years by entities developing and testing this technology.
(c) The State of California, which presently does not prohibit or specifically regulate the operation of autonomous vehicles, desires to encourage the current and future development, testing, and operation of autonomous vehicles on the public roads of the state. The state seeks to avoid interrupting these activities while at the same time creating appropriate rules intended to ensure that the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles in the state are conducted in a safe manner.
(d) Toward that end, the Legislature finds it appropriate to authorize the establishment of specific safety requirements for the testing and operation of autonomous vehicles, and to require that future testing and operation of autonomous vehicles in the state comply with those requirements.
SEC. 2. Division 16.6 (commencing with Section 38750) is added to the Vehicle Code, to read:
DIVISION 16.6. Autonomous Vehicles
38750. (a) For purposes of this division, the following definitions apply:
(1) “Autonomous technology” means technology that has the capability to drive a vehicle without the active physical control or monitoring by a human operator.
(2) (A) “Autonomous vehicle” means any vehicle equipped with autonomous technology that has been integrated into that vehicle.
(B) An autonomous vehicle does not include a vehicle that is equipped with one or more collision avoidance systems, including, but not limited to, electronic blind spot assistance, automated emergency braking systems, park assist, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, traffic jam and queuing assist, or other similar systems that enhance safety or provide driver assistance, but are not capable, collectively or singularly, of driving the vehicle without the active control or monitoring of a human operator.
(3) “Department” means the Department of Motor Vehicles.
(3)
(4) An “operator” of an autonomous vehicle is the person who is seated in the driver’s seat, or if there is no person in the driver’s seat, causes the autonomous technology to engage.
(4)
(5) A “manufacturer” of autonomous technology is the person as defined in Section 470 that originally manufactures a vehicle and equips autonomous technology on the originally completed vehicle or, in the case of a vehicle not originally equipped with autonomous technology by the vehicle manufacturer, the person that modifies the vehicle by installing autonomous technology to convert it to an autonomous vehicle after the vehicle was originally manufactured.
(b) An autonomous vehicle may be operated on public roads for testing purposes by a driver who possesses the proper class of license for the type of vehicle being operated if either of the following applies all of the following requirements are met:
(1) The autonomous vehicle is being operated on roads in this state solely by employees, contractors, or other persons designated by the manufacturer of the autonomous technology for testing purposes. The technology.
(2) The driver shall be seated in the driver’s seat, monitoring the safe operation of the autonomous vehicle, and capable of taking over immediate manual control of the autonomous vehicle in the event of an autonomous technology failure or other emergency. Prior
(3) Prior to the start of testing in this state, the person manufacturer performing the testing shall obtain an instrument of insurance, surety bond, or proof of self-insurance as specified in regulations adopted by the Department of Motor Vehicles pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (d), in the amount of five million dollars ($5,000,000).
(2)The manufacturer of the autonomous technology provides all of the following: in the amount of five million dollars ($5,000,000), and shall provide evidence of the insurance, surety bond, or self-insurance to the department in the form and manner required by the department pursuant to the regulations adopted pursuant to subdivision (d).
(c) Except as provided in subdivision (b), an autonomous vehicle shall not be operated on public roads until the manufacturer submits an application to the department, and that application is approved by the department pursuant to the regulations adopted pursuant to subdivision (d). The application shall contain, at a minimum, all of the following certifications:
(1) A certification by the manufacturer that the autonomous technology satisfies all of the following requirements:
(A) The autonomous vehicle has a mechanism to engage and disengage the autonomous technology that is easily accessible to the operator.
(B) The autonomous vehicle has a visual indicator inside the cabin to indicate when the autonomous technology is engaged.
(C) The autonomous vehicle has a system to safely alert the operator if an autonomous technology failure is detected while the autonomous technology is engaged, and when an alert is given, the system shall do either of the following:
(i) Require the operator to take control of the autonomous vehicle.
(ii) If the operator does not or is unable to take control of the autonomous vehicle, the autonomous vehicle shall be capable of coming to a complete stop.
(D) The autonomous vehicle shall allow the operator to take control in multiple manners, including, without limitation, through the use of the brake, the accelerator pedal, or the steering wheel, and it shall alert the operator that the autonomous technology has been disengaged.
(E) The autonomous vehicle’s autonomous technology meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for the vehicle’s model year and all other applicable safety standards and performance requirements set forth in state and federal law and the regulations promulgated pursuant to those laws.
(F) The autonomous technology does not make inoperative any Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for the vehicle’s model year and all other applicable safety standards and performance requirements set forth in state and federal law and the regulations promulgated pursuant to those laws.
(G) The autonomous vehicle has a separate mechanism, in addition to, and separate from, any other mechanism required by law, to capture and store the autonomous technology sensor data for at least 30 seconds before a collision occurs between the autonomous vehicle and another vehicle, object, or natural person while the vehicle is operating in autonomous mode. The autonomous technology sensor data shall be captured and stored in a read-only format by the mechanism so that the data is retained until extracted from the mechanism by an external device capable of downloading and storing the data. The data shall be preserved for three years after the date of the collision.
(c)Except as provided in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b), an autonomous vehicle may not be operated on public roads unless the manufacturer first submits an application to the Department of Motor Vehicles that contains, at a minimum, all of the following:
(1)A certification by the manufacturer that the autonomous technology meets all of the requirements of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b).
(2) A certification that the manufacturer has tested the autonomous technology on public roads and has complied with the testing standards, if any, established by the Department of Motor Vehicles department pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (d).
(3) A certification that the manufacturer will maintain a surety bond, or proof of self-insurance as specified in regulations adopted by the Department of Motor Vehicles department pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (d), in an amount of five million dollars ($5,000,000).
(d) Prior to (1) As soon as practicable, but no later than January 1, 2014 2015, the Department of Motor Vehicles department shall adopt regulations setting forth requirements for the submission and approval of an application to operate an autonomous vehicle pursuant to this division and shall hold public hearings on the adoption of any regulation applicable to the operation of an autonomous vehicle without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle. The regulations shall include any testing standards, in addition to those established by paragraph (1) of subdivision (b), developed by the Department of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, or any other entity chosen by the department that has expertise in automotive technology, automotive safety, and autonomous system design that the department approves and concludes are necessary to ensure the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads. The department may establish additional requirements by the adoption of regulations, which it determines, in consultation with the CHP, are necessary to ensure the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads, including regulations regarding the number of deployments of autonomous vehicles on public roads. of evidence of insurance, surety bond, or self-insurance required by subdivision (b), and the submission and approval of an application to operate an autonomous vehicle pursuant to subdivision (c).
(2) The regulations shall include any testing, equipment, and performance standards, in addition to those established for purposes of subdivision (b), that the department concludes are necessary to ensure the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads, with or without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle. In developing these regulations, the department may consult with the Department of the California Highway Patrol, the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, or any other entity identified by the department that has expertise in automotive technology, automotive safety, and autonomous system design.
(3) The department may establish additional requirements by the adoption of regulations, which it determines, in consultation with the Department of the California Highway Patrol, are necessary to ensure the safe operation of autonomous vehicles on public roads, including, but not limited to, regulations regarding the aggregate number of deployments of autonomous vehicles on public roads, special rules for the registration of autonomous vehicles, new license requirements for operators of autonomous vehicles, and rules for revocation, suspension, or denial of any license or any approval issued pursuant to this division.
(4) The department shall hold public hearings on the adoption of any regulation applicable to the operation of an autonomous vehicle without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle.
(e) (1) The Department of Motor Vehicles department shall approve an application submitted by a manufacturer pursuant to subdivision (c) upon verification that the manufacturer has submitted test results demonstrating if it finds that the applicant has submitted all information and completed testing necessary to satisfy the department that the autonomous vehicles are safe to operate on public roads and the applicant has complied with all requirements specified in the regulations adopted by the department pursuant to subdivision (d). Notwithstanding the foregoing
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), if the application seeks approval for autonomous vehicles capable of operating without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle, the department may impose additional requirements it deems necessary to ensure the safe operation of those vehicles, and may require the presence of a driver in the driver’s seat of the vehicle if it determines, based on its review of the testing conducted by the manufacturer pursuant to paragraph (1), that such a requirement is necessary to ensure the safe operation of those vehicles on public roads. The Department of Motor Vehicles department shall notify the Legislature of the receipt of an application from a manufacturer seeking approval to operate an autonomous vehicle capable of operating without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle and approval of the application. Approval of the application shall be effective no sooner than 180 days after the date the application is submitted.
(f) Nothing in this division shall limit or expand the existing authority to operate autonomous vehicles on public roads, until 120 days after the Department of Motor Vehicles department adopts the regulations authorized required by this subdivision paragraph (1) of subdivision (d).
(g) Federal regulations promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shall supersede the provisions of this division when found to be in conflict with any other state law or regulation.
(h) The manufacturer of the autonomous technology installed on a vehicle shall provide a written disclosure to the purchaser of an autonomous vehicle that describes what information is collected by the autonomous technology equipped on the vehicle. The Department of Motor Vehicles department may promulgate regulations to assess a fee upon a manufacturer that submits an application pursuant to subdivision (c) to operate autonomous vehicles on public roads in an amount necessary to recover all costs reasonably incurred by the department.

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