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California DMV tackles 'driverless car' issues

June 18, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Driverless cars like the ones Google is testing are raising questions and concerns. Who's responsible for an accident? Can a blind person drive? The DMV is trying to come up with some answers.

California's Department of Motor Vehicles is trying to catch up with technology. The agency has to come up with regulations addressing self-driving cars like the one Google is developing.

"We need to take baby steps. We need to make sure that these vehicles can operate safely," said Bernard Soriano, DMV Autonomous Vehicle Project. "When these vehicles get into an accident, who's going to be liable?"

And the touchy subject of privacy has many concerned. The software used is recording information to make the driverless vehicles operate.

"What exactly is that information? Where is it being stored? Who has access to that information? How is that information being used?" said Soriano.

Silicon Valley companies, the car industry and the public have begun telling DMV what rules of the road they'd like to see.

Techies are concerned about over-regulation stifling innovation, while consumer groups worry about safety.

"Motorists in California are not guinea pigs," said Rosemary Shahan, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. "We have a lot of computer technology in cars already. And it doesn't always work right. There are often problems."

Rick Hodgkins, who relies on public transportation because he is blind, is excited about the prospect of autonomous cars being available for the blind.

"In general, it would just save me time," said Hodgkins.

What about children driving, for example?

"Not right now. But maybe in the future," said Soriano.

By law, DMV has to have the regulations in place by the end of 2014.


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