Permits to test driverless vehicles pass DMV regulatory speed bumps


On January 14, 2014, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) held a hearing on proposed regulations governing the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads in California. 

An autonomous vehicle is a vehicle that is equipped with technology which allows the vehicle to be operated without the active control or monitoring of a natural person. 

SB 1298, which was enacted in 2012, directs the DMV to adopt regulations on the testing of autonomous vehicles. The DMV’s proposed regulations set forth requirements which a vehicle manufacturer would have to satisfy in order to conduct testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. 

The requirements include the obligation that the manufacturer provides evidence of its ability to respond to a judgment for damages or injuries arising from the operation of autonomous vehicles in the amount of five million dollars. The evidence may be in the form of a policy issued by an insurer, a surety bond, or a certificate of self-insurance.

During the hearing, representatives of Volkswagen and Google voiced general support for the regulations but urged the DMV to make several revisions before adopting the regulations. None of the revisions outlined at the hearing related to the manufacturer’s obligation to provide evidence of its ability to respond to damages.    

A representative of the Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC) objected to the provision in proposed section 227.06 which states that the manufacturer’s evidence of insurance is in addition to the requirement that the driver must provide proof of insurance. ACIC argued that the testing of an autonomous vehicle should not involve personal insurance coverage.

At the close of the hearing, the DMV counsel said that the DMV hopes to attain final adoption of the regulations by early in the summer of 2014.          

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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