Self-driving cars could hit a major road block in California

Driverless cars

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has released proposed regulations for autonomous cars in the US state, and it could hold back progress on the development of driverless cars.

The draft regulations call for all autonomous cars to still include a steering wheel and pedals when operating in California, as well as a licensed driver with an "autonomous vehicle operator certificate" who could take over the controls if needed.

This would mean that driverless cars, like the one Google is developing (which has simple off and on buttons) or ones that could essentially work as driverless taxis, would be banned on state roads.

The draft regulations also require autonomous cars to undergo testing and certification by a third party in order to get a three-year operating permit for cars that can be leased to the public, but not bought.

Google reacts

Google has already criticized the draft regulations, saying in a statement to The New York Times of its autonomous car development: "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," Google said.

The concern is that requiring a human on board who would also need a special operating certificate would mean autonomous cars won't ever be fully autonomous, and development of driverless cars won't move much farther beyond what Tesla has already made available with its autonomous control update. At least, not in California.

But the DMV said that "manufacturers need to obtain more experience in testing driverless vehicles on public roads prior to making this technology available to the general public."

Even so, the proposed regulations are still just a draft. The DMV will hold public workshops regarding the drafts in Sacramento on January 28 and in Los Angeles on February 2, 2016.

"The department will address the unique safety, performance and equipment requirements associated with fully autonomous vehicles without the presence of a driver in subsequent regulatory packages," the DMV draft read.

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