Google CEO Larry Page, Co-Founder Sergey Brin and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in a self-driving car on January 20, 2011. Courtesy Google.
Google CEO Larry Page, Co-Founder Sergey Brin and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in a self-driving car on January 20, 2011. Courtesy Google.

The wild west of driver-less cars has formally come to an end. Under new testing regulations enacted by the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, car manufacturers are now required to apply for permits to test cars with self-driving technology on California public roads

Luxury car maker Audi announced it was the first company to receive the new one-year permit, which “shows that we intend to remain the leader in this vital technology frontier,” said Audi of America President Scott Keogh in a released statement.

The Associated Press reported permits were also issued to Mercedes and Volkswagen – with two vehicles each – and Google for its fleet of 25 Lexus SUVs.

Key requirements of the regulations include:

  • Insurance or bond to cover liabilities in the amount of $5 million
  • An annual report outlining when the car had to be taken over by a person due to “failure of autonomous technology”
  • A test driver who is “capable of taking over physical control of the vehicle at any time”

Though Google’s autonomous vehicle fleet includes Toyota, Lexus and other cars modified with cameras and sensors, it also unveiled its own prototype vehicles earlier this year. The prototypes, which have no pedals or steering wheel, are designed to work without human intervention.

A Google blog post on Monday addressed the new DMV regulations,  stating that their Google-made vehicles will be fitted with temporary controls after assembly.

“We’ll remove these manual controls after the prototypes have finished being tested and permitted, because our vehicles are ultimately designed to operate without a human driver,” officials said in the blog post.

Currently, the DMV permit and regulations only address testing of the self-driving vehicles. Regulations for consumer or public operation are expected in late December.

Colleen Park, MyNewsLA.com

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