San Francisco Wants California To Define How Police Should Interact With Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous driving vehicles are advancing faster than the laws that govern them so it comes as little surprise some basic questions still haven’t been resolved.

The latest example comes from California where the executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Tilly Chang, asked the state’s department of motor vehicles to “define how law enforcement officers will interact with [autonomous] vehicles in situations such as parking and traffic violations.”

As reported by Arstechnica, Chang also called on the DMV to force automakers to hand over all “autonomous technology data and/or video recordings” in an event that an autonomous vehicle is involved in an accident.

Automakers and trade groups, on the other hand, want California to relax its regulations and let the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration handle the government response.

As the manager of the Association of Global Automakers, Paul Scullion, explained “Our concern is that if each state were to impose [its] own regulatory regime [this] would delay the deployment of lifesaving technology.” Scullion also noted the patchwork of individual state laws could make a car perfectly legal in one area but against the law in another.

Both sides pose some fair questions but unfortunately everyone is still waiting for a government response.

  • Honda NSX-R

    San Francisco brought up a good point.

    • Infinite1


  • Benjamin B.

    Right now the people taking responsibility if something goes wrong are the automakers and also insurance companies. But eventually owners will probably take some of the responsibility. Owners will be forced to agree with “terms and conditions.” Anyway I am very interested in how the local, state, and federal governments decide who is a fault when something goes wrong. Automakers are right to take responsibility in beta. The customers will need to take some responsibility.

    • brn

      Some, post-beta, thoughts.

      For accidents: Insurance companies set rates based on risk. They need to determine the appropriate risk for a particular vehicle and set the rate. Just like when you drive, it’s the insurance company that’s liable unless you are negligent. Insurance companies are in very early stages of determining the risk, and lots of refinement will be needed.

      For parking violations: In most cases, the operator (not going to use the term “driver”) of the vehicle should be assumed to have control over where the vehicle parks.

      For traffic violations: This isn’t near as clear. This is one where the automaker could potentially be involved. The vehicle should be designed to obey traffic laws, unless the operator overrides it.

      • jcwconsult

        Bad traffic laws are part of the problem here.

        Example: If 85% of the cars are at or under 40 mph, then the safest limit to post is 40 – NOT anything lower. If a city, in its complete lack of wisdom or its relentless pursuit of speed trap revenue, posts 25 mph – then it is more dangerous to drive at 25 than it is to be at 31 to 40 (10 mph Pace with the most vehicles). in this example, the proportion of cars at or below the improper 25 mph limit will be less than 10%, and it is quite foolish to drive in the lowest few percent of the flow because you become a moving traffic hazard disrupting the flow. Similarly, it would be foolish to drive at 50 because you would be far above the normal flow and disrupting it.

        James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • brn

    Hate the picture.