Californian motorists should brace themselves, as the Golden State is poised to let autonomous vehicles onto its roadways, en masse. Announcing that it will begin taking applications for driverless vehicle licenses starting in July, California will begin granting autonomous vehicles access to its roads in September of this year.
The decision is part of a larger nationwide push for autonomous vehicles, a topic we have covered at length here on Asphalt & Rubber, and accordingly something that the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) have finally taken an interest in participating on an advisory level.
In the case of California, the reality is that only potential manufacturers of autonomous vehicles can apply for a license, and the purpose of the law is to close a legal loophole found within the California Vehicle Code (CVC), while also regulating this space in the transportation industry.
It should also come with little surprise that Google, the company that virtually necessitated this law in California, has also just announced its purpose-built autonomous car (shown above).
Of the restrictions imposed by the California DMV to get an autonomous vehicle license, the following are some highlights:
- Manufacturer must register the test vehicle with DMV
- Manufacturer completed previous autonomous vehicle testing under controlled conditions
- Manufacturer uses qualified test drivers who complete a training program and obey all provisions of the Vehicle Code
- Manufacturer test drivers sit in the driver seat and are capable of immediately taking control of the vehicle
- Manufacturer reports to DMV any accident involving a test vehicle or any situation where the autonomous technology disengages during operation
- Manufacturer maintains $5 million insurance or surety bond
Sure to cause an outcry from both the four and two-wheeled worlds, on its face the news and its future potential is a bit foreboding, as motorists are reluctant to see vehicles of several tons operating themselves along the byways.
We have expressed our own caution, as roadways filled with autonomous vehicles (we foresee widespread adoption, once the techno-shock wears off for consumers) could make motorcycles a double transportation minority, thus potentially dumbing the long-term viability of the motorcycle industry in an autonomous vehicle world.
The saving grace for motorcyclists however is that in these early stages of development, autonomous vehicles will have to work in an environement that isn’t geared towards autonomous vehicles.
This means that coping with pedestrians, bicyclists, and yes even motorcyclists, will be a skill set these vehicles must bring to the table even in their infancy, if the technology is to be allowed by state and federal governments, and lawsuits are to be avoided.
Let’s not forget too, it’s not like motorcyclists have a particularly high affinity for car drivers, as our four-wheeled cousins rush around in the cages, with cell phones glued to their hands and stereos blaring in their ears. In all likelihood, an autonomous car is far more aware of you and your motorcycle, than any old-fashioned “driver car” ever will be. I for one welcome our autonomous overlords.
Source: CA DMV