Yesterday California’s DMV published a revised set of draft regulations to govern the testing of driverless cars–or autonomous vehicles if you prefer. This set of regulations allows something the previous set did not: the testing of cars without a driver inside. The draft regulations face a period of public comment before becoming final.
Google’s self-driving car division has formed a coalition with automakers and ride-share companies to push the federal government to adopt a uniform set of laws governing autonomous vehicles. The group includes Google, Lyft, Uber, Ford and Volvo. David Strickland, the Coalition’s counsel and spokesperson, said, “The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the Coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles.”
Instead of waiting for new regulations that will make way for self-driving cars on US roads, Google wants the government to create a new Federal-level authority that could review the company’s self-driving cars and give it special permissions for deployment. Google’s self-driving car, which is designed without pedals or a steering wheel, has had difficulties with current safety regulations that dictate a vehicle must allow a person to actually drive the car and have manual controls.
Reuters is reporting that U.S. regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have concluded that the artificial intelligence behind autonomous vehicles may be considered a “driver” for purposes of United States law. In a letter to Google from NHTSA’s Chief Counsel Paul Hemmersbaugh advised, “NHTSA will interpret ‘driver’ in the context of Google’s described motor vehicle design as referring to the (self-driving system), and not to any of the vehicle occupants.” The decision is seen as a major step forward in clearing regulatory hurdles associated with the century-old model based on human drivers. If the car’s computer is the driver for legal purposes, then it clears the way for Google or automakers to design vehicle systems that communicate directly with the vehicle’s artificial pilot. Google told NHTSA that the real danger is having auto safety features that could tempt humans to try to take control.
According to the Los Angeles Times, an estimated 605,000 licenses were issued last year under Assembly Bill 60, the measure passed last year that grants the right to a California driver’s license to people in the country illegally. The figure accounts for almost half of all licenses issued in California last year. Officer Josh Nelson, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol, suggested the measure likely improved highway safety in California. “Knowing that these drivers are being properly trained in order to get their licenses, it would only make sense that the roads would be safer,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board would like to decrease the legal driving limit to one drink, lowering the legal limit on blood-alcohol content to 0.05 “or even lower.” The agency released its “most wanted list” on Wednesday, an annual wish list of changes it would make it would make across America if it could. Two of these proposals certain to stir controversy are the lowering of the legal limit and outlawing all cell phone use while driving, even hands-free technology. “When it comes to alcohol use, we know that impairment begins before a person’s BAC reaches 0.08 percent, the current legal limit in the United States,” the agency said. “In fact, by the time it reaches that level, the risk of a fatal crash has more than doubled. That is why states should lower BAC levels to 0.05— or even lower.”
Yesterday the Obama administration proposed spending almost $4 billion to speed the development of autonomous vehicles. The proposal, which requires Congressional approval, would fund regulatory efforts to have officials work with automakers to come up with rules and policies necessary to make driverless cars work. Automakers frequently cite the lack of guidance from the government as one of the chief barriers to their autonomous vehicle projects. “Automated vehicles open up opportunities for saving time, saving lives and saving fuel,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on Thursday at the North American International Auto Show, an annual auto industry get together in Detroit.
In case you missed it, the California Legislature extended the IID Pilot Program until July 1, 2017. The pilot program–effective only in the counties of Los Angeles, Alameda, Tulare and Sacramento–requires every first-time DUI offender to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. Elsewhere in California first offenders are not required to install an IID.
The “0INK” vanity plate battle waged by Indiana police officer Rodney Vawter has come to an end–at least for now. We previously reported on Officer Vawters’s efforts of to keep his vanity plate “0INK”–a tongue-in-cheek reference to his job. The Chicago Tribune reports that Officer Vawter lost the battle last week, with a unanimous high court ruling that license plates are not individual speech but government speech subject to regulation.
Bail in traffic cases has long been a bone of contention between defense attorneys and superior courts. Here’s how it works. A motorist gets a speeding ticket and wants to fight it. She goes down to the courthouse to request a trial, and the clerk tells her she must pay $370 “bail” in order to secure a trial date. This practice is flatly unconstitutional, but has been imposed by almost every court in California for years. They call it “bail,” but what they’re really doing is collecting your anticipated fine in advance. (It can’t legally be bail in traffic cases, because bail is authorized only for crimes that carry a jail sentence.) Following last May’s stern rebuke by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court, the California Legislature last week passed a law (and Governor Brown approved) banning the practice statewide. A judge can still require bail in limited circumstances such as when a motorist refuses to sign a promise to appear or if the judge believes the motorist will not appear for trial.
DUI drivers in Colorado have been slow to catch on to the state’s new felony DUI law, which made fourth offense DUIs a felony in the Centennial State beginning last month. The story of David Randall Nance is typical of DUI drivers in Colorado arrested under the new law. Colorado Springs police arrested Nance for DUI two weeks ago following a car crash. Nance had eight prior “DUI-related convictions” (whatever that means). “Give me my ticket and let me get out of here,” he said, according to officer Michelle Nethercot, who wrote his arrest affidavit. Nance later said that he had stopped drinking and was getting treatment.
DMV discriminates against transgender motorists again, this time in Louisiana. (You may recall we previously reported a South Carolina teen who was prohibited from wearing makeup in her driver’s license photo. South Carolina’s DMV relented after the ACLU took the case.) It’s the same story here, just a different state. 21-year-old Denham Springs resident Alexandra Glover says the clerk told her she was trying to misrepresent her gender by wearing makeup. “You don’t look like a man,” she was told. The state’s rationale is the same that South Carolina used before realizing how ludicrous it was: DMV requires that the license photo accurately reflect the motorist’s usual appearance. The obvious problem is that DMV has no way of knowing what a motorist’s “usual appearance” is. When DMV discriminates against transgender motorists, there are remedies they can pursue. If you or anyone you know has suffered such discrimination, contact the ACLU or our office immediately.