State of California says the Tesla S isn't a driverless car
State of California says the Tesla S isn't a driverless car. Image credit: Car and Driver.

California’s regulations for autonomous vehicles were further revised and released on September 30, by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on their official website.

The biggest change includes a regulatory clause that allows the absence of a driver in some cases providing the vehicle is always connected to the company’s network. This means the self-driving car can never be left alone completely.

California is the number one state in autonomous vehicle testing, a position that has lead to many breakthroughs and setbacks, such as last week’s accident involving a Google Lexus. These trials are partially responsible for inspiring these types of legislation which include the recently published Federal Automated Vehicles Policy.

The DMV forbids the Tesla S model to be called an autonomous car

Several self-driving car manufacturers have come forward to criticize the original draft of these regulations, citing concerns on innovation and fearing reduced testing of autonomous vehicles. The first version of the report was released in December 2015.

Other complaints included those made by certain disabled groups, who stated these policies hurt the people self-driving cars are attempting to aid, according to an article on Business Insider.

The DMV released three different revised documents. The first one is a glossary that explains words such as ‘autonomous’ and forbids their use in cars such as the Tesla Model S, a car that still needs a human driver behind the wheel, even when using its Autopilot mode.

The other documents include an open invitation to discuss these regulatory policies later this month and an official statement regarding the Federal mentioned above Automated Vehicles Policy released by the NHTSA.

Highlights from the revised documents

The DMV’s Workshop Notice states their new approach will focus on allowing autonomous car makers more room for testing and the eventual ‘deployment’ of these vehicles on public roads. ‘Deployment’ means the vehicle’s future availability to be purchased and used by the general public.

It also classifies autonomous vehicles in five different levels, from driver-assisted cars to fully self-driven models. This classification was created by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and adopted by the DMV on their original draft.

The revised regulation states only SAE Level 3 vehicles will be obligated to have an operator with a driver’s license. Examples of a Level 3 car could include both the Tesla’s and Google’s Lexus cars, which, like the regulation states, need a person to “be ready to take back control when the automated system requests.”

A public hearing is scheduled for further discussion of these policies on October 19 at the Capitol building in Sacramento.

Source: Department of Motor Vehicles DMV DMV Automated vehicle policy