December 16, 2015
About California Autonomous Vehicle Regulations
California will require a licensed driver and steering controls.
That knocks out autonomous taxis. No way for the taxi to drive itself to pick up a passenger. It also eliminates the benefit for the blind and old folks who've lost too much coordination and decision-making skills.
But if you are eagerly waiting autonomous vehicles do not despair. What I expect to happen: Some jurisdictions will allow fully autonomous vehicles. In those jurisdictions death rates will plummet. People will sing the praises of cheap autonomous taxis. The old and blind will get a lot of attention in the press when they describe their new freedom of movement. The public will become very supportive in the more restrictive jurisdictions. Then governments like California's will relent.
It will be interesting to see which jurisdictions allow autonomous vehicles first. Some more free wheeling American states? Japan? Hong Kong or Singapore? Will German car companies apply pressure for Germany to be a front runner in the race to full autonomy? How about China? It is now the biggest car market in the world.
I'm still expecting fully autonomous vehicles on sale in some jurisdictions by the early 2020s and with skyrocketing demand across many jurisdictions by the mid 2020s.
Randall Parker, 2015 December 16 09:14 PM
I think it's pretty clear that this is a transitional regulation. Once self-driving cars have compiled a good safety record, it might reasonably be repealed.
For now, there are situations self-driving cars simply do not cope well with: Construction zones, extremely bad weather, to name but two. Either the car must avoid such circumstances, or having a driver who can take over is a real necessity.
California is actually ahead of most states, in that they permit these vehicles at all.
It appears that another problem is that self-driving cars are programmed to follow speed limits, and they are often rear-ended, especially at traffic lights, or fail to merge into highway traffic. This is not a solvable problem. Programmers cannot write code that allows the vehicles to violate traffic laws a la human drivers. Unless the feds mandate self-driving in all new cars, it might never happen, despite the potential benefits in safety, highway capacity and rider convenience. Automated, driverless taxis would be a boon to large cities, if they could somehow be integrated into the traffic flow.
An alternate solution would be posting reasonable speed limits, instead of unreasonably low speed limits which are expected to be violated, while providing a revenue source in the form of speeding tickets.
If the speed limits weren't deliberately set low, they could be seriously enforced, and the self-driving cars wouldn't be moving any slower than the human driven ones.
Both cops and drivers know the "defacto" speed limits in different areas. These can easily be programmed into software. But the first applications of this technology will be in off-road commercial use such as in mining, construction and in transport for theme parks. Next will come long-haul trucking which will reduce transportation costs by 30% or more. Large ships and petroleum tankers can be automated which will reduce costs, accidents and eliminate piracy. Get ready folks! The times, they are a changing.
Just tell the CA lefty bureaucrats that driverless cars will save a lot of oil, and enable some parking lots to become green spaces.
That will push the right buttons. It is a matter of reframing the argument, nothing more.