California Approves Bill to Set Standards for Self-Driving Cars

This ties in nicely — or worrisomely, depending — with John Gregory’s post immediately prior to this one, in which he asked questions about software updates to your car’s computer systems. Now the Governor of California, the jurisdiction that sets the automobile standards for the US and so for the rest of us, has approved a bill that will begin the setting of appropriate standards for self-driving cars. (See the story here.) From the preamble to SB 1298:

. . . This bill would require the department [of the California Highway Patrol] to adopt safety standards and performance requirements to ensure the safe operation and testing of “autonomous vehicles,” as defined, on the public roads in this state. The bill would permit autonomous vehicles to be operated or tested on the public roads in this state pending the adoption of safety standards and performance requirements that would be adopted under this bill. . . .

There’s serious convergence here, to be sure, because a prime mover behind all of this has been Google, which has used “autonomous vehicles” in its street view mapping project. Governor Brown signed the bill in fact at Google’s headquarters, with Sergey Brin at his side. This leaves Apple with the more challenging prospect of developing self-driving aircraft — once they get their map act together, of course.

I for one welcome my new chauffeur. Little is more tedious than long stretches of highway driving with the car already half on automatic pilot thanks to cruise control. I am a trifle worried, however, about what will happen when, as is my wont, I’m a tad late with paying the SASS bills.

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