California Passes Autonomous Car Bill, Following Nevada’s Lead

Hot on the heels of Nevada’s sweeping autonomous car regulation laws, the California senate passed a bill designed to regulate cars that drive themselves, making it the second U.S. state to do so.

It’s only been two weeks since Nevada passed its wide-ranging autonomous car laws. Among other things, the Nevada laws create a full program to allow the testing and licensing of autonomous cars, and even created a new red license plate to identify licensed autonomous cars at a glance. The first plate was given to–who else?–Google and one of its autonomous Toyota Prius prototypes.

California’s laws don’t go quite as far. The first step in the law is to define exactly what an autonomous car is and isn’t–specifically that cars with lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring systems don’t qualify if they cannot actually drive themselves. The law states that autonomous cars will now be regulated (acknowledging that they’re neither prohibited nor explicitly accepted in California state law), and that all autonomous cars must have an easily activated mechanism to shut off the autonomous features. It also mandates that the cars must have a trained driver in the front seat.

It appears that the California law is an intermediary step, one between the regulation-free nature of autonomous car testing in states other than Nevada, and the fully regulated nature of testing in Nevada. While Nevada requires that a car be tested and operated only on certain roads and in certain situations/landscapes before being licensed, the California law is a step in between, setting a baseline of rules like large on/off switches and indicator lights to show if the autonomous driving system is on or off, and the car’s ability to remove itself from traffic if a system malfunctions.

The bill passed the California State Senate 37-0, and now moves on to the state’s other legislative body–the State Assembly–for its approval.

Source: CA Legislative Info