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Warning! This is a not the current version of this legislative bill.
Italicized text includes proposed additions to law or the previous version of the bill.
Struck text includes proposed deletions to law or the previous version of the bill.

(pdf version)

INTRODUCED BY Senator Padilla

FEBRUARY 23, 2012

An act to add Division 16.6 (commencing with Section 38750) to the
Vehicle Code, relating to vehicles.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 1298, as introduced, Padilla. Vehicles: autonomous vehicles:
safety requirements.
Existing law requires the Department of the California Highway
Patrol to adopt rules and regulations that are designed to promote
the safe operation of specific vehicles, including, among other
things, schoolbuses and commercial motor vehicles.
This bill would require the department 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.
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes.
State-mandated local program: no.


THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1. Division 16.6 (commencing with Section 38750) is added
to the Vehicle Code, to read:

DIVISION 16.6. Autonomous Vehicles


38750. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Development is actively under way of new technology that,
through the use of computers, sensors, and other systems, permits a
motor vehicle to operate without the active control and continuous
monitoring of a human operator. Motor vehicles with this technology,
referred to as "autonomous vehicles," offer significant potential
safety, mobility, and commercial benefits for individuals and
businesses in the state and elsewhere.
(b) Autonomous vehicles have been operated safely on public roads
in the state in recent years by companies developing and testing this
technology.
(c) The State of California, which presently does not prohibit or
specifically regulate the operation of autonomous vehicles, desires
to encourage the current and future development, testing, and
operation of autonomous vehicles on the public roads of the state.
The state seeks to avoid interrupting these activities while at the
same time creating appropriate rules intended to ensure that the
testing and operation of autonomous vehicles in the state are
conducted in a safe manner.
(d) Toward that end, the Legislature finds it appropriate to
authorize the establishment of specific safety requirements for the
testing and operation of autonomous vehicles, and to require that
future testing and operation of autonomous vehicles in the state
comply with those requirements.
38751. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), autonomous
vehicles may be operated on the public roads in this state if the
manufacturer of the autonomous vehicle certifies, in a manner to be
determined by the Department of the California Highway Patrol, that
the vehicle meets all of the safety standards and performance
requirements adopted by the department pursuant to subdivision (e) to
ensure the safe operation of the vehicle.
(b) A manufacturer of an autonomous vehicle may operate the
vehicle for testing purposes on the public roads in this state if the
manufacturer and the vehicle to be tested meet the testing safety
requirements adopted by the department.
(c) (1) "Autonomous vehicle" means a motor vehicle that uses
computers, sensors, and other technology and devices that enable the
vehicle to safely operate without the active control and continuous
monitoring of a human operator.
(2) A vehicle equipped with one or more crash 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 and
continuous monitoring of a human operator, is not an autonomous
vehicle.
(d) A "manufacturer" of an autonomous vehicle is the person as
defined in Section 470 that manufactures the autonomous vehicle as an
originally completed vehicle or, in the case of a vehicle not
originally equipped with autonomous technology, the person that
modifies the vehicle to convert it to an autonomous vehicle.
(e) (1) As used in this division, "department" means the
Department of the California Highway Patrol. The department shall
adopt regulations to implement the provisions of this division
pursuant to Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Division 3
of Title 2 of the Government Code.
(2) This division does not prohibit the operation and testing of
autonomous vehicles on the public roads in this state on or before
the adoption of regulations by the department.