In one of the most challenging hurdles for the development of autonomous vehicles, Google is finding itself at odds over the slow speed with which the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is working on regulations that would govern the operation of those vehicles.
Google would like to be able to produce vehicles that would be ready for public roads within the next year, but the state DMV has yet to complete the regulation writing process that would enable vehicles without steering wheels or brake pedals to operate.
The test fleet of vehicles has logged almost 1.3 million highway miles, those tests have been limited to locations near Google's headquarters and in good weather conditions.
In order to test under broader, real-world conditions and it wants to take out the steering wheel and foot pedals to remove the temptation of human drivers to attempt to intervene in emergencies. Google argues that the accidents involving these vehicles have all been caused by human error.
Current regulations do not permit the removal of the steering wheel or foot pedals and the agency was supposed to have published new rules back in January. That has not happened and is likely part of Google's motivation to begin some development work with road testing in Texas.
Ford has created a test environment in Michigan, which avoids some of the issues involved in testing the vehicles on public roads. The automakers may be more willing to follow the suggested path of the federal Department of Transportation, and "go safe" by slowly introducing more and more self-driving attributes and systems into production vehicles, as opposed to Google's more radical path.
Regulators are being cautious because they don't want to stifle innovation, but they also want to ensure the safety of the public. Neither is likely to be easy to achieve.
Source: nbcnews.com, "Google Self-Driving Cars Face Slow Going From California DMV," Associated Press, November 16, 2015