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

  • smiler

    I wish they would just stop and get on with something useful.

  • Starmag

    A perfect way to advertise to the world that you’ve been neutered.

  • Conrice

    Jeez, were they trying to make that car have a “face”? It doesn’t exactly look happy.

  • Belga

    Bring it on. I almost got rear-ended at a stop light yesterday on a 30mph road because cager was texting. Cagers almost always see driving as a means to an end and the responsibility of safely navigating 5k lbs. of glass and metal is secondary to whatever activity they’re engaged in while driving.

    Oh yeah, cager thought it was my fault for stopping at a red light.

  • chaz michael michaels

    I can’t wait for the Mr. Potatohead turbo model (distinguished from the current model by its mustache and bowler hat).

  • Mars

    I noticed a small feeling inside of me when I read about these cars. That feeling was a sense of wanting to “test” these things, daring them to misbehave, because they are machines, and I want to mess with one of them, see what I can make it do. Can I make it do a panic stop by some tactical move, accidentally or on purpose? What do they do when someone cuts them off in traffic or does a brake-check? If you ride in the “blind spot” can you prevent one from changing lanes if you want to? How does the car assert itself on the road like a driver would by, say, sort of making a move to change lanes when the person next to them will not give way after seeing a turn signal? The ways in which this will alter our culture are as of now unimaginable, but I bet we are going to learn some of them – QUICK. A driverless car has, to me, no rights on the road. I do not mean “no right” to BE on the road, I mean it has no rights like a car piloted by a person does. I do not perceive it as a human being trying to get to work. Rather, I perceive it as some elitist hat-bowl with too much money assuming everyone else will get out of her way just like the imnfamous Google Bus debacle in San Fran. How will we resoslve fender-benders and the concept of fault? OIs the driver at fault for all behavior of the car when the driver isn’t really in charge of the car? On and on and on. This is gonna be fun. I can’t wait until someone gets yanked out of their cute little smart(a$$) car and receives a beat-down when the car does something lame. Problems – they are a comin.

  • chaz michael michaels

    Hey Mars I’ll tell you what you’ll never be able to do driving a car that looks as stupid as that one–get laid.

  • Worth emphasizing that the Google car depicted is a prototype purpose-built for testing; it’s limited to 25 mph and has no fixed hand controls. The 25 mph limitation classifies it as a NEV, which also significantly reduces the amount of expensive safety testing required. Presumably if test drivers are required to take over, they do so through a removable interface.

  • Ken

    I don’t think it would be a bad thing as long as they are limited to certain roads, lanes and low speeds and types of turns they can make but someone in this great land of ours will find a way to abuse it.

  • irksome

    A 25mph vehicle with nothing but an on/off switch?

    The perfect sentence for anyone caught texting or drunk.

  • Shinigami301

    At least an “autonomous automobile” (seems redundant, nu?) is less likely to swerve into me from two lanes over while the driver is texting from behind the wheel- as did a Subaru driver earlier today, who is now missing a left-side mirror.

    After all, he obviously wasn’t using it anyway. Armored gloves rule.

    (And what IS IT with Subaru drivers???)

  • irksome

    Subaru is the new Volvo.

  • “on its face the news and its future potential is a bit verbodding,”

    Not to mention foreboding. ;^)

  • sideswipeasaurus

    With the way many drivers treat their cars like an extension of their living rooms it may be best control is take away from them. Leave driving (and riding) to those who enjoy it as an active experience.
    If these auto-autos are to be safe for bikes, pedestrians, other traffic etc, I would think they will maintain very conservative speed & road habits. Active drivers & riders will probably be able to game them as they will probably be predictable but how can someone have road rage for getting cut off when they’re doing their nails, reading a book, or sleeping while commuting?
    I do like the idea of them having their own lanes. They could even pull a line of them bumper to bumper at freeway speeds like a hitchless train.

  • TomzeBomb

    I for one applaud Google for taking steps to reduce urban congestion.
    SF’s urban crawl in particular is nightmarish during rush hour traffic and horrible the rest of the day. I look forward to smooth orderly traffic that maintains lane position whilst I split them.

    Everyone on here slamming this as a bad idea, or worse, should do a little thinking before making themselves appear so foolish.

  • “Everyone on here slamming this as a bad idea, or worse, should do a little thinking before making themselves appear so foolish.”

    Not necessarily foolish. I, for one, see a quite logical progression from allowing autonomous vehicles to requiring them. The governmental mindset tends to be one of removing freedoms in the name of safety/security. Should these vehicles demonstrably improve safety, you can bet that legislation to add that capability to all new vehicles will soon follow. As motorcycles do not generally allow for such functionality, they would be banned from use as being intrinsically unsafe.

    It sounds rather dystopian, but I don’t think it’s all that unlikely. Motorcycles are seen as a fringe nuisance to much of the N.A. population. Many would vote to get rid of ’em all together and make the world a safer place.