All You Need to Know About Self-Driving Vehicles

by Lisa on February 06, 2016

There’s been a lot in the news recently about self-driving regulations. As is normal with these kinds of things, there are groups forming with specific perspectives, goals, and opinions. We decided to pull together a cheat sheet guide to the entire issue. Everything is easier to grasp in “CheatSheet” form.


In Where to? A History of Autonomous Vehicles brings forth several interesting points. For one, autonomous vehicles have been a part of popular fiction since 1935. And, the technology has been used since shortly after. Sailboats were the first to use autonomous technology, with railroads and steam engines being the first wide use of the autonomous technology. Agriculture is full of self-driving technology used for harvesting and other work in fields. Self-guided torpedoes are an example of using the technology in a more disturbing way. The point is that the technology is used in a wide variety of fields and the dream of an autonomous vehicle has been around for a very long time.

In the 1960’s artificial intelligence engineers began working on automotive technology that would allow a self-driving vehicle by developing technology that addressed sensing, processing and reacting to the outside world. In the 1980s, German pioneer Ernst Dickmanns got a Mercedes van to drive hundreds of highway miles autonomously, a tremendous feat especially with the computing power of the time. Around the world, dozens of other AI Pioneers added their improvements.

The US Military took note. In 2004, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA) challenged dozens of teams then working on autonomous vehicles to compete for a $1 million prize. The hope was that a third of military vehicles would drive themselves by 2015. At first, these efforts failed, but by 2007, the Urban Challenge featured several successful vehicles.

Jump to 2015 and multiple big time players are in the game. Self-driving technology is already widely used with various cars featuring self-parking technology, and several manufacturers are testing the self-driving technology on public roads in the U.S. Navia is a self-driving vehicle already sold in Europe meant for use in small places, like resorts or Heathrow airport in London.

Major U.S. Players, Goals & Opinions

  • California’s Department of Motor Vehicles

CA DMV is charged with acting in the general public’s best interest and was also charged with drafting guidelines for autonomous vehicle use by 2012. The CA DMV has been somewhat slow in passing legislation, but “drafts of legislation include rules that some say will greatly limit the potential of autonomous vehicles”: For one, draft legislation prevents automakers from selling autonomous vehicles to customers and only allows them to lease the vehicles. “CA also released draft rules in December”: that prevents autonomous vehicles from being on public roadways without a licensed driver.

  • Companies Developing the Technology (Google, Apple, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan)

Google, Apple, and Tesla, all companies based in CA, spent the past few years pushing for supportive legislation guiding the use of autonomous vehicles on CA public roadways. These companies believe there is tremendous opportunity for autonomous vehicles, but they need the ability to test vehicles without a driver in the car, and they also are looking for a legal environment that supports companies that make autonomous vehicles and the owners of autonomous vehicles.

  • Department of Transportation

The federal arm in the argument, also known as the DOT, recently weighed in when DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx stated, “We’re not agnostic on the fact the wave of technology coming into this sector has to be responded to in a timeframe that allows the best of it to get into the marketplace as soon as possible,” he said. “So we are working through our agency on issues surrounding autonomous vehicles. We have regulations that say a human foot has to be on a pedal. We’re looking at how to adjust our regulatory system to let these technologies take root.”

  • Consumer Advocates (Advocates for Blind, physically-challenged or disabled people)

In a recent Sacramento workshop discussing rules around autonomous vehicles, blind individuals stepped forward to request driverless cars sooner rather than later. The technology they believe could be life-changing, not only for the blind, but for other groups with disabilities that prevent them from having transportation freedom.

  • Consumer Watchdog

The Consumer Watchdog group recently studied the disengagement reports provided by Google and has determined that the number of disengagements (times that a human had to take over driving to prevent a wreck) are too high to allow autonomous vehicles on public roadways without a licensed human driver.

What’s To Come

Developers of the technology are bound to start looking state by state for the most supportive legislative environment and possibly a varied weather environment as they look to expand testing. ABC News has cited Nevada as being the “most probable option” as it was the first state to pass legislation allowing companies to operate autonomous vehicles on public roads in 2011.

We should expect autonomous vehicles to occupy a greater percentage of our news as states start to develop their legislature. Currently, only a fraction of states has legislation or guidelines for autonomous vehicles. Interested parties are lining up to fight for their interests, for the development of technology and public safety. It should be an interesting fight and a fascinating time to live in the United States.

Here’s your FREE DMV question and answer.
FREE DMV Question (answer at bottom of page): A solid yellow line next to a broken yellow line means that vehicles:
A – In both directions may pass B – Next to the broken line may pass C – Next to the solid line may pass


Self-Driving Vehicles Are Coming. Is Your State Ready?

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FREE DMV Question and Answer: B is the correct answer.

Lisa Lippiner covers driving news for, making the roads safer one test taker at a time.

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