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california legislation > SB 1298

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Date of Hearing: June 25, 2012

Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair
SB 1298 (Padilla) - As Amended: June 19, 2012


: Autonomous vehicles

SUMMARY : Establishes conditions for the operation of autonomous
vehicles upon public roadways. Specifically, this bill :

1)Makes legislative findings and declarations regarding new
technologies that permit motor vehicles to operate without the
active control and continuous monitoring of a human operator
and the need to encourage the current and future development,
testing, and operation of autonomous vehicles on the state's
public roads.

2)Defines "autonomous technology" as a technology that has the
capability to drive a vehicle without the active physical
control or continuous monitoring by a human operator.

3)Defines an "autonomous vehicle" as any vehicle equipped with
autonomous technology that has been integrated into that

4)Specifies that an autonomous vehicle does not include a
vehicle that is equipped with one or more collision avoidance
systems, including, but not limited to, electronic blind spot
assistance, automated emergency braking systems, park assist,
adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure
warning, traffic jam and queuing assist, or other similar
systems that enhance safety or provide driver assistance, but
are not capable, collectively or singularly, of driving the
vehicle without the active control or monitoring of a human

5)Defines an "operator" of an autonomous vehicle as the person
who is seated in the driver's seat or causes the autonomous
technology to engage.

6)Defines a "manufacturer" of autonomous technology as the
person who originally manufactures a vehicle and equips

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autonomous technology on the originally completed vehicle or,
in the case of a vehicle not originally equipped with
autonomous technology by the vehicle manufacturer, the person
that modifies the vehicle by installing autonomous technology
to convert it to an autonomous vehicle after the vehicle was
originally manufactured.

7)Allows an autonomous vehicle to be operated on public roads by
a driver who possesses the proper license for the vehicle
being operated if it is being operated on roads in this state
solely by employees, contractors, or other persons designated
by the manufacturer of the autonomous technology for testing
purposes. Under this scenario, the driver must be seated in
the driver's seat, monitoring the safe operation of the
autonomous vehicle, and shall be capable of taking over
immediate manual control of the autonomous vehicle in the
event of an autonomous technology failure or other emergency.
Prior to the start of testing in this state, the person
performing the testing must obtain an instrument of insurance,
surety bond, or proof of self-insurance in the amount of $5
million dollars.

8)Allows, alternatively, such vehicles to be operated on public
roads if the manufacturer of the autonomous technology
provides all of the following:

a) The autonomous vehicle has a mechanism to engage and
disengage the autonomous technology that is easily
accessible to the operator.

b) The autonomous vehicle has a visual indicator inside
the cabin to indicate when the autonomous technology is

c) The autonomous vehicle has a system to safely alert
the operator if an autonomous technology failure is
detected while the autonomous technology is engaged, and
when an alert is given, the system does either of the

i) Require the operator to take control of the
autonomous vehicle.

ii) Allow the autonomous vehicle to come to a
complete stop if the operator does not or is unable to

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take control of the autonomous vehicle.

d) The autonomous vehicle allows the operator to take
control in multiple manners, including, without
limitation, through the use of the brake, the accelerator
pedal, or the steering wheel, and alerts the operator
that the autonomous technology has been disengaged.

e) The autonomous vehicle's autonomous technology meets
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for the vehicle's
model year and all other applicable safety standards and
performance requirements set forth in state and federal
law and the regulations promulgated pursuant to those

f) The autonomous technology does not make inoperative
any Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for the
vehicle's model year and all other applicable safety
standards and performance requirements set forth in state
and federal law and the regulations promulgated pursuant
to those laws.

g) The autonomous vehicle has a separate mechanism, in
addition to and separate from any other mechanism
required by law, to capture and store the autonomous
technology sensor data for at least thirty seconds before
a collision occurs between the autonomous vehicle and
another vehicle, object, or natural person while the
vehicle is operating in autonomous mode. The autonomous
technology sensor data must be captured and stored in a
read-only format by the mechanism so that the data is
retained until extracted from the mechanism by an
external device capable of downloading and storing the
data. Such data must be preserved for three years after
the date of the collision.

1)Prohibits an autonomous vehicle from being operated on public
roads unless a licensed driver is seated in the driver's seat
of the vehicle until such time that an autonomous vehicle
meets the requirements established by the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the State of
California establishes regulations or standards for the
operation of autonomous vehicles.

2)Sunsets the above prohibition on January 1, 2017.

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3)Prohibits an autonomous vehicle from being operated on public
roads, other than by manufacturers' representatives for
testing purposes, unless the manufacturer first submits an
application to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that
contains, at a minimum, a certification by the manufacturer
that the autonomous technology meets all of the required
capabilities described above; that the manufacturer has tested
the autonomous technology on public roads; and that the
manufacturer will maintain a surety bond, or proof of
self-insurance, in an amount of $5 million to compensate for
losses due to injuries or property damage caused by a defect
in the autonomous technology.

4)Allows DMV, prior to January 1, 2014, to adopt regulations
setting forth requirements for the submission and approval of
an application to operate autonomous vehicles pursuant to
these provisions.

5)Allows DMV to establish additional requirements by rule which
it determines, in consultation with the California Highway
Patrol (CHP), are necessary to ensure the safe operation of
autonomous vehicles on public roads.

6)Provides that this bill does not limit or expand the existing
authority to operate autonomous vehicles on public roads,
until 120 days after DMV adopts those regulations.

7)Provides that federal regulations promulgated by the NHTSA
will supersede this bill's provisions when found to be in
conflict with them.


1)Defines a vehicle as "a device by which any person or property
may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, excepting a
device moved exclusively by human power or used exclusively
upon stationary rails or tracks."

2)Provides numerous rules governing the operation of vehicles on
the state's public and private roads but does not, however,
require that a person drive the vehicle.

FISCAL EFFECT : Unknown. This bill was withdrawn from the
Senate Appropriations Committee pursuant to Senate Rule 28.8.

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COMMENTS : The author notes that despite the many safety
improvements to the automobile since its invention, auto
accidents remain a leading cause of death. The Centers for
Disease Control (CDC) reports that motor vehicle crashes are the
leading cause of death among people 5 through 34 years old. In
2009, more than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were
treated in emergency rooms as the result of being injured in
motor vehicle crashes nationwide. Additionally, according to
NHTSA, in 2010, a total of 32,885 people died in the United
States in car accidents. More than 2,700 of these traffic
fatalities were in California. Car accidents also result in a
significant economic cost. A 2005 CDC report found that the
lifetime cost of crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers
and passengers was $70 billion.

The author points out that the vast majority of traffic
fatalities and injuries are due to human error, noting that a
2006 U.S. Department of Transportation study found that some
form of driver error occurred in nearly 80% of car accidents.
The author asserts that through the use of computers, sensors
and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analyzing
the driving environment more quickly and operating a vehicle
more safely than a human being. And, as supporters point out,
driverless vehicles hold the promise of tremendous mobility
opportunities for individuals whose physical conditions render
them unable to drive themselves.

This bill is intended to enable California to join several other
states in seeking safe testing and operational standards for
autonomous vehicles. Last year, the State of Nevada enacted a
similar bill into law. (The Nevada DMV recently issued to
Google the first license in that state to test autonomous
vehicles.) In addition, Florida recently passed legislation and
Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Arizona are all currently considering
legislation regarding autonomous vehicles. The author and
supporters note that as a global technology leader, California
is uniquely positioned to be the leader in the deployment of
autonomous technology and the manufacture of autonomous
vehicles. He states that this technology will not only save
lives, it will create jobs.

The federal government has yet to regulate autonomous vehicles
in any fashion. NHTSA, the entity responsible for developing

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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, has yet to initiate a
process to develop standards for autonomous vehicle technology,
and even once it does so, it likely will take several years to
finalize those standards. It is not uncommon, however, for
federal standards to lag innovation in the auto industry and for
manufacturers to add safety improvements to vehicles prior to
the development of applicable standards.

Clearly, technology in this area is advancing dramatically and
it is logical and desirable that California, home to many of the
world's technology giants, should be in the vanguard of the
development of autonomous vehicles. But the move to driverless
automotive transportation cannot be embarked upon without
careful consideration. The current version of this bill
represents a sincere attempt by the author and supporters to
meet a variety of concerns and to balance numerous overlapping
interests. There are, however, a number of issues that remain

First, automobile makers fear that when this technology is added
on to the vehicles they have designed for use by human
operators, they may be drawn into liability litigation upon an
accident caused by the failure of that after-market equipment or
of its installation rather than due to any inherent safety
problem with the vehicle itself. Although the author asserts
that existing tort law absolves them of any liability in such
instances, the automakers understandably desire explicit
language in the bill to make this clear.

Secondly, privacy advocates are troubled by the ability of this
technology to collect without restriction large amounts of data
and are asking that data collection be limited to only that data
that is necessary for the operation of the vehicle and that such
data not be retained any longer than is necessary for the
operation of the vehicle - unless the vehicle owner provides
informed opt-in consent for such collection.

Finally, some observers wonder if this bill is premature in
providing a mechanism that potentially allows driverless
operation, rather than waiting to pursue such statutory
authorization at such time as extensive on-road experience

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indicates it is timely to do so.

Suggested Committee amendments

1)While restrictions on data collection might be desirable to
assure that consumer privacy is protected, there is some
question as to how the technology manufacturer would determine
what constitutes "data necessary for the operation of the
vehicle." As an alternative, the Committee suggests the bill
be amended to require the manufacturer to disclose to
consumers what data actually will be collected. In this
manner, the consumer can then make an informed choice as to
whether he or she wishes to purchase the technology, given its
data collection capabilities.

2)Successful testing and operation of this technology with
drivers behind the wheel will no doubt prepare the public for
the eventual driverless operation of autonomous vehicles.
Once assured that these vehicles can safely drive themselves,
a future legislature will almost certainly want to provide
statutory authorization for driverless operation. At this
point, however, that assurance has not been achieved. The
Committee therefore suggests that provisions that potentially
authorize driverless operation be removed from the bill.

3)The bill currently allows the use of autonomous technology to
move beyond the employee-testing phase to use by the general
public when its manufacturer submits "a certification that the
manufacturer has tested the autonomous technology on public
roads." This provides no assurance that the technology is in
any way safe or effective. The Committee suggests the bill be
amended so that the testing standards are developed and test
results are evaluated by an independent third party, approved
by DMV, such as the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC
Berkeley or the CHP.


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California Chapter of the American Fence Association
California Fence Contractors' Association
California Foundation for Independent Living Centers
Engineering Contractors' Association
Flasher Barricade Association
Marin Builders Association
Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association
Personal Insurance Federation of California
Technology Association of America


Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
Consumer Alert
Global Automakers

Analysis Prepared by
: Howard Posner / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093