Tesla, Apple Urge California To Ease Autonomous Car Rules

5 months ago by Steven Loveday 13

Autonomous Apple Vehicle

Apple autonomous testing vehicles have been spotted on numerous occasions. Now, the company is reportedly using 2015 Lexus RX450h SUVs.

Tesla, Apple, and others are pushing the California DMV to change current self-driving car testing rules, but it seems that the company’s motives may not always match up.

Tesla asked California to ease up on current restrictions that ban testing of autonomous vehicles over 10,000 pounds. The automaker said that rules such as this “stifle innovation.” Also, Tesla explained that such vehicles may be used on private sites to transport heavy goods or equipment. Apple agreed with Tesla’s proposal to California. Apple also agrees with Tesla in that the DMV should not restrict which equipment can or cannot be used.

We reported several months back that Apple had finally officially joined the self-driving race, and at that time, the tech company was also trying to sway California on its self-driving car rules. Apparently, this has continued, but it seems that Apple is not just pushing in order to assure for uninterrupted innovation, but also to make sure that others are highly scrutinized. This is a way for Apple to “catch up” with others that have been in the race for some time.

Autonomous Chevrolet Bolt

Autonomous Chevrolet Bolt out driving in San Francisco.

Apple argues that the system isn’t regulated enough, and that there needs to be more standard measurements in place, and automakers need to be held more accountable. The tech company wants to make sure that all other companies in the segment are sharing any “problems” with the California DMV. Apple’s letter said that it looks forward to working closely with the state:

“so that rapid technology development may be realized while ensuring the safety of the traveling public.”

Waymo, Ford, Uber, Toyota, and Tesla all submitted comments to the California DMV. The state has said that it will review the suggestion, and decide on policy soon.

Apple’s specific request was that companies should have to report all self-driving “disengagements.” This means that every time a person must take control, even if it’s not 100 percent necessary, or because of a possible problem, the automaker still needs to tell the DMV of the incident. Apple is preaching that it wants to keep the testing process safe, and make sure that the public is not confused or mislead about the specific self-driving level.

Others believe that Apple is specifically targeting Tesla’s Autopilot system, in hopes that it will fail, or that Apple’s system will be able to fare better in the eyes of the California DMV and the public. Steve Kenner, Apple’s director of product integrity believes that current regulations are too wide open and:

“caused public confusion and misunderstanding.”

Apple also wants the definition of autonomy to be better clarified, along with increased clarity to companies about exactly what the DMV’s expectations are. Uber ran into problems with this clarity and has since been banned from testing in California.

Other suggestions:

  • Tesla believes that it should be able to sell it self-driving test cars as “non self-driving cars” at a later date, as long as the autonomous test equipment is removed and replaced with traditional equipment.
  • Uber wants paying members of the public to be able to ride in the test cars.

    “There is no reason to deny those riders an opportunity to travel in an autonomous test vehicle and provide honest feedback.”

  • Lyft doesn’t think that it should have to contact the authorities each time it plans to test.
  • Daimler and Volkswagen are disputing the amount of data retention required for each self-driving crash.
  • Waymo wants California’s liability proposal removed.
  • General Motors agrees with Waymo, and adds that an automaker shouldn’t be to blame if the autonomous car wasn’t the cause of the crash.
  • General Motors wishes to reuse self-driving test cars that have been involved in a crash, once they are adequately repaired.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. It goes to show how involved the process is going to become as regulating bodies begin to deal with autonomous cars. There are so many considerations, stipulations, and unanswered questions.

Source: Reuters

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14 responses to "Tesla, Apple Urge California To Ease Autonomous Car Rules"

  1. pjwood1 says:

    This is becoming a hotter topic in circles away from Silicon Valley:
    http://tinyurl.com/m9f2zvu

    1. Kdawg says:

      I think the person that wrote your linked article doesn’t understand how the technology works. Seemed like a trigger piece.

      1. pjwood1 says:

        But still, the San Francisco area has raised its own legal challenges, yet from a city planning perspective would receive the economic benefit of “successful” AV tech firms near by.

        Driving around with AP, whether “self-driving” or not, does best with a much, much higher level of contrasting lines and other inputs which would make things easier for any medium you want to throw on a car. Maybe not road sensors, but Intel was just commenting about how:

        “Intel’s Winter expects fully autonomous cars to collect, process and analyze four terabytes of data in 1-1/2 hours of driving, which is the average amount a person spends in a car each day. That’s equal to storing over 1.2 million photos or 2,000 hours of movies.”
        http://tinyurl.com/lwstpae

        This doesn’t seem like a trigger piece, to me. Actually neither The Atlantic, nor CSM passers of triggers (if I understand what that means). Citylab is urban focused.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          “Driving around with AP, whether “self-driving” or not, does best with a much, much higher level of contrasting lines and other inputs which would make things easier for any medium you want to throw on a car.”

          I have been wondering for some time now if autonomous cars are going to force some changes to how paved roads are built. How will they finally solve the problem of an autonomous vehicle “seeing” the edge of a lane or road when it’s covered with snow? It occurs to me that in the future, we may see roads which have reflectors positioned at the edge or shoulder of the road; reflectors which will flatten if you run over them with a car, but otherwise will stick up a few inches, allowing the autonomous car to detect them and thus have a very clear indication of where the road is.

          On the other hand, reflectors which stick up only a few inches would be covered if a snowplow came along and pushed the snow off the road to the side, so that probably isn’t an optimal solution.

  2. Victor says:

    Until Level 5 autonomous driving is achieved I think the weight restriction should stay in place. I don’t think anyone should have to report every time the autopilot disengages. Those figures can be misleading and discriminatory depending on what state/city you’re living in, or driving through. All roads are not equal, all driving conditions are not equal. People will read too much into those numbers.

  3. Roy_H says:

    Uber wants paying members of the public to be able to ride in the test cars.
    “There is no reason to deny those riders an opportunity to travel in an autonomous test vehicle and provide honest feedback.”

    I presume this is with an Uber driver at the wheel ready to take over. The passengers should have to sign a waiver acknowledging they are riding in a test vehicle.

  4. Roy_H says:

    “Tesla believes that it should be able to sell it self-driving test cars as “non self-driving cars” at a later date, as long as the autonomous test equipment is removed and replaced with traditional equipment.”

    ??? Aren’t all Tesla’s delivered with autonomous equipment already. I can see removing the test recording equipment, but that shouldn’t require “replaced with traditional equipment”.

    1. Kdawg says:

      “self-driving” “auto-pilot”

      1. Kdawg says:

        “self-driving” ≠ “auto-pilot”

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “Aren’t all Tesla’s delivered with autonomous equipment already.”

      So far as I know, Tesla is not claiming that any car it has sold is capable of full autonomy. Certainly Tesla isn’t selling any cars with “test equipment” installed!

      There was a photo published just the other day here on InsideEVs, showing a Model S with what appeared to be a second steering wheel, mounted in the “shotgun” passenger position. Perhaps Tesla wants to be able to sell that test car as a fully street-legal vehicle if the second set of driving controls are removed. That’s just one example, of course.

      1. GSP says:

        Tesla very clearly claims that every new car they sell is capable of full autonomy.

        As soon as the software is available and they get regulatory approval, owners can actually use the “full self driving” mode that they have already paid for.

        GSP

  5. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Looks to me like Apple is trying to get public disclosure of data from other companies which are developing self-driving systems. Hey, if you’re behind in the technology race, nothing like forcing the leaders to show you how they’re doing it!

    I’m hoping Apple completely and totally fails here. If there is any information sharing, it should be something which companies negotiate and contract for. Forcing companies to give up their tech secrets is anti-competitive, and smacks a lot more of economic socialism than capitalism.

    Stop Apple! 😉

  6. needa says:

    So what is the difference in what the current law is in Cali on disengagements vs what Apple wants? Seems like it is already being done. And has been this way for at least a couple years.

    §227.46. Reporting Disengagement of Autonomous Mode.
    (a) Upon receipt of a Manufacturer’s Testing Permit, a manufacturer shall commence retaining
    data related to the disengagement of the autonomous mode. For the purposes of this section,
    “disengagement” means a deactivation of the autonomous mode when a failure of the
    autonomous technology is detected or when the safe operation of the vehicle requires that the
    autonomous vehicle test driver disengage the autonomous mode and take immediate manual
    control of the vehicle.

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