California green-lights driverless car testing statewide, operations can begin in April

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 26
As anticipated, the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Monday received approval from the California Office of Administrative Law to enact a set of regulations that will allow companies to test remotely operated autonomous vehicles on public roads.




Under the DMV's public testing framework, car and tech companies looking to test their respective autonomous vehicle technology can deploy test beds without a driver behind the wheel, reports The Sacramento Bee. The regulations go into effect on April 2.

As previously reported, California's new guidelines replace human operators with so-called "remote" drivers, or technicians who monitor car functions from a remote location. Operators are required to maintain a communications link with test vehicles at all times and, if things go awry, assume "immediate physical control" of the car, according to the adopted regulations (PDF link).

Aside from rules covering basic driving functionality, companies must set up and maintain a remote driver training program, submit for driving permits, notify local authorities of testing and more. One stipulation demands companies provide evidence that they can cover potential damages claims, which includes property damage and death arising from autonomous vehicle operation, of $5 million.

Of note, manufacturers looking to operate one or more autonomous vehicles must create a law enforcement interaction plan that provides instructions on how to contact a remote driver, ensure the car's autonomous mode is disengaged and safely move the vehicle out of traffic. The action plan also requires companies to furnish a description of the test vehicle's operational design.

"This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California," DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said in a prepared statement. "Safety is our top concern and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California."

With at least 27 self-driving Lexus testbeds -- with human operators -- rolling on California roads, Apple is thought to be among those companies ready to take the next step toward a driverless future.

Apple kicked off its autonomous vehicle testing program with just three heavily modified Lexus RX450h hybrids last year. Last August, the tech giant upgraded to newer versions of the SUV and outfitted those cars with updated sensor equipment including advanced LiDAR and GPS hardware.

Apple's Autonomous Vehicle Tester (AVT) Program is a continuation of efforts to build a branded self-driving car under the "Project Titan" initiative. Dating back to at least 2015, Titan was a massive undertaking that saw more than 1,000 employees working on various projects spread across multiple Apple facilities. The initiative was ultimately shelved in late 2016 after it hit a number of major obstacles.

During the intervening months, Apple refocused efforts from a full-fledged branded vehicle to concentrate on self-driving software and supporting hardware. What Apple plans to do with the resulting technology is unknown, though rumors last year claim the company is planning to launch an experimental autonomous shuttle service for employees dubbed the Palo Alto to Infinite Loop, or PAIL.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    It'll be interesting to see how Apple ties iPhones to securely unlock its autonomous cars.
    Reliable and secure face recognition will also give Apple a security advantage in autonomous systems.
    iCloud integration?

    We are living in interesting times folks.
     
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Yes, this is going to be very interesting.  Looks like I'm going to be an unwilling beta tester.  Just hope they don't show up near me.
    philboogie
  • Reply 3 of 12
    There seems to be a plethora of unique efforts in the quest to get an autonomous platform on the road today. When will we see a consolidation of programs that will truly define the future of the industry. At this point, Apple probably isn't behind at all. They just don't reveal their development victories because they don't need the publicity to get funding. With the stroke of a pen, they can advance their program in a California second.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    The known leaders in this area are GM and Waymo. 

    Still, though, I certainly wouldn’t count Apple out of this race. I keep thinking that Apple’s advantage might be the combination of software with custom silicon — that is, a fully integrated stack. That’s their advantage with everything else, and this is an area where I can imagine total control and integration could be advantageous. 
  • Reply 5 of 12
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,085member
    Apple could simply just be flying under the radar with this. Thats not a bad thing either. Apple is spending a ton of money on R&D for something and its not just a new SmartSpeaker or a new Mac Pro. Apple could really come out and surprise everyone with something. As with anything they get their hands on, never count Apple out. 
  • Reply 6 of 12
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,321member
    I don’t know if this is true, but there have been rumors that Apple invented a much smaller, and less expensive LIDAR. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true. It’s something that Apple excels at, and as long as there’s no theoretical reason why something can’t be done, as long as the economics look good, it will be done.

    if Apple has lost interest in producing their own car, there has to be a reason why the continued research. If they’re planning in selling, or even giving a software autonomous suite away, then that likely to not go well. Auto makers won’t want Apple to run their cars at a low level as well as on a high level.

    but, if Apple develops a patented hardware and software suite that’s inexpensive, accurate and reliable, for maybe $500, or so, it may be hard to resist, particularly if Apple allows customization.
    edited February 27
  • Reply 7 of 12
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,264member
    melgross said:
    I don’t know if this is true, but there have been rumors that Apple invented a much smaller, and less expensive LIDAR. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true. It’s something that Apple excels at, and as long as there’s no theoretical reason why something can’t be done, as long as the economics look good, it will be done.

    if Apple has lost interest in producing their own car, there has to be a reason why the continued research. If they’re planning in selling, or even giving a software autonomous suite away, then that likely to not go well. Auto makers won’t want Apple to run their cars at a low level as well as on a high level.

    but, if Apple develops a patented hardware and software suite that’s inexpensive, accurate and reliable, for maybe $500, or so, it may be hard to resist, particularly if Apple allows customization.
    There was an article a few months back at Ars (and Business Insider) about a smaller and much less expensive LiDAR unit that's been invented, but Apple wasn't the company. Is that the one you're remembering or is their something else you've seen?

    In any event if they're going to be allowed on public roadways the hardware and systems would have to be approved by the relevant transportation authorities beforehand. It's not going to happen in secret. If Apple has some autonomous car underway with proprietary hardware that we've not yet seen it's going to have to be tested in public, just as they're doing now with their initial road-ready system running on their leased Lexus testbed models. A small private test track won't cut it.

    The California application process is detailed here along with a list of the current companies approved, Apple being one of the 50 so far. 
    https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/vehindustry/ol/auton_veh_tester

    Each company's safety record and relative effectiveness is open for public inspection too with detailed records of "disengagements" and traffic incidents, something Apple originally fought against but have presumably now accepted. 
    https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/autonomous/disengagement_report_2016
    Next year you will be able to look over Apple's progress. 
    edited February 27 philboogie
  • Reply 8 of 12
    Last Sunday morning on the radio I heard an interview with an author. He had written a book about self driving cars. His position: they would never work. They would never progress beyond the state of having to have a driver there to help it out of difficult situations. That there is no demand from people to not drive themselves. That it was a complete waste of time that was diverting resources from mass transit which was the real future of travel. As far as he was concerned cars could not and would never be truly self driving and so the whole effort should be abandoned. I listened to the interview, while thinking of all the articles I've been reading about self driving cars. How they are driving on real roads. How Uber, trucking firms, and others are looking at replacing human drivers with automation. How many people I've talked to wish that they could just get in the car and play with their phone rather than driving to work. How these things DO exist in the real world and have had quite a bit of success. Talk about being out of touch
    randominternetpersonjony0SpamSandwich
  • Reply 9 of 12
    DAalseth said:
    Last Sunday morning on the radio I heard an interview with an author. He had written a book about self driving cars. His position: they would never work. They would never progress beyond the state of having to have a driver there to help it out of difficult situations. That there is no demand from people to not drive themselves. That it was a complete waste of time that was diverting resources from mass transit which was the real future of travel. As far as he was concerned cars could not and would never be truly self driving and so the whole effort should be abandoned. I listened to the interview, while thinking of all the articles I've been reading about self driving cars. How they are driving on real roads. How Uber, trucking firms, and others are looking at replacing human drivers with automation. How many people I've talked to wish that they could just get in the car and play with their phone rather than driving to work. How these things DO exist in the real world and have had quite a bit of success. Talk about being out of touch
    Maybe he wants to be famous as the guy who's quoted years from now for being so completely wrong (like early comments about a worldwide market for a few computers, or no computer needing more than 64K of RAM, or whatever).
    DAalsethjony0
  • Reply 10 of 12
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,782member
    DAalseth said:
    Last Sunday morning on the radio I heard an interview with an author. He had written a book about self driving cars. His position: they would never work. They would never progress beyond the state of having to have a driver there to help it out of difficult situations. That there is no demand from people to not drive themselves. That it was a complete waste of time that was diverting resources from mass transit which was the real future of travel. As far as he was concerned cars could not and would never be truly self driving and so the whole effort should be abandoned. I listened to the interview, while thinking of all the articles I've been reading about self driving cars. How they are driving on real roads. How Uber, trucking firms, and others are looking at replacing human drivers with automation. How many people I've talked to wish that they could just get in the car and play with their phone rather than driving to work. How these things DO exist in the real world and have had quite a bit of success. Talk about being out of touch
    The only thing I can think is that perhaps level 5 will never work out as hoped. But level 4 looks like it is definitely going to happen. 

    And eventually, it might not matter if level 5 never happens, because the driving context could change so much that it just isn't needed. 
  • Reply 11 of 12
    Anyone who has driven on California roads would feel safer with a blind baby driving next to them.
  • Reply 12 of 12
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 30,321member
    gatorguy said:
    melgross said:
    I don’t know if this is true, but there have been rumors that Apple invented a much smaller, and less expensive LIDAR. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true. It’s something that Apple excels at, and as long as there’s no theoretical reason why something can’t be done, as long as the economics look good, it will be done.

    if Apple has lost interest in producing their own car, there has to be a reason why the continued research. If they’re planning in selling, or even giving a software autonomous suite away, then that likely to not go well. Auto makers won’t want Apple to run their cars at a low level as well as on a high level.

    but, if Apple develops a patented hardware and software suite that’s inexpensive, accurate and reliable, for maybe $500, or so, it may be hard to resist, particularly if Apple allows customization.
    There was an article a few months back at Ars (and Business Insider) about a smaller and much less expensive LiDAR unit that's been invented, but Apple wasn't the company. Is that the one you're remembering or is their something else you've seen?

    In any event if they're going to be allowed on public roadways the hardware and systems would have to be approved by the relevant transportation authorities beforehand. It's not going to happen in secret. If Apple has some autonomous car underway with proprietary hardware that we've not yet seen it's going to have to be tested in public, just as they're doing now with their initial road-ready system running on their leased Lexus testbed models. A small private test track won't cut it.

    The California application process is detailed here along with a list of the current companies approved, Apple being one of the 50 so far. 
    https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/vehindustry/ol/auton_veh_tester

    Each company's safety record and relative effectiveness is open for public inspection too with detailed records of "disengagements" and traffic incidents, something Apple originally fought against but have presumably now accepted. 
    https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/autonomous/disengagement_report_2016
    Next year you will be able to look over Apple's progress. 
    It was said to be an Apple device.

    i know all that. But just because something has been invented doesn’t mean it’s ready for a reveal. You should know that. We don’t know nearly as much about what Apple is doing as some pundits think they know, or the reasons for it. It’s all been subjective guessing.
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