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Google 'Gravely Disappointed' With California's New Rules for Self-Driving Cars

The draft regulation requires that a driver be in the car.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The first-ever regulations for self-driving cars rolled out of California on Wednesday — and Google is very displeased.

After putting out ground rules for the testing of autonomous vehicles last year, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles issued draft rules for the actual deployment of the cars this morning. Some rules, like requiring manufacturers to receive certification and pass certain cyber security thresholds, were expected.

But the surprise — and the big snag for Google — is that the rules expressly declare that a licensed driver must be present in the front seat at all times.

In a statement, Google’s self-driving car unit slammed the proposed rules:

In developing vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button, we’re hoping to transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error or bringing everyday destinations within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car. Safety is our highest priority and primary motivator as we do this. We’re gravely disappointed that California is already writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars to help all of us who live here.

Since Google revealed its autonomous vehicle program, the Internet giant has insisted its aim is to deliver fully driverless cars. Its homemade prototype cars, which it has been testing on roads in California and Texas since this summer, were designed without steering wheels and brake pedals, but have had to include them to be on the road legally.

California’s draft rules also note that drivers must pass similar certification requirements, akin to those in the testing phase now. And, if an accident happens, the driver is always at fault — another rule that flies in the face of Google’s position; the company has said it would take responsibility for accident liability.

One silver lining for Google may be that the proposed regulations forbid carmakers from selling self-driving cars outright. Instead, they have to be leased, which may move autonomous cars closer to a service model, something Google would prefer.

The rules aren’t set in stone. “Any of this stuff can be changed down the line,” said Jaime Garza, a spokesman for the California DMV. “The regulations are in draft form and they will evolve as we get input.”

Next month, the state will open up the draft regulations to comments from companies. Currently, 11 manufacturers are permitted to test self-driving cars in the state, including Google, Tesla and, as of this month, Ford.

This article originally appeared on

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