California's Department of Motor Vehicles has issued draft regulations that would put the kibosh on Google's steering wheel-less autonomous car, as well as any use of autonomous cars without a human inside.
The Golden State has the most robust regulation of autonomous car development in the country. That's great, if you're a company looking for a friendly legal environment to test your autonomous car program.
It'd keep Google's self-driving car off California roadways
That's bad if you're a company like Google that is looking to really push the boundaries. The proposed rules require all autonomous automobiles be equipped with a steering wheel and pedals to drive on public roads, so an on-board human (also required) can take over should things go awry. That means Google's self-driving car, complete with giant black button (to make it go) and giant red button (to make it stop in case of emergency), will be forbidden if the regulations stand as proposed.
Libertarian think tank R Street calls out California for requiring vehicles be tested and certified by third-party testing bodies that don't currently exist, and that autonomous vehicle operators hold a special "operating certificate" in addition to a traditional driver's license.
Google criticized the proposal in a statement to Automotive News, saying the company was "gravely disappointed" that California was "writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars." Not all states are so restricting, however. A spokesperson for Steve Adler, mayor of Austin, Texas told the Associated Press that Google was welcome in Texas and that Austin was "thrilled" to host autonomous vehicle development.
Texas is "thrilled" to have self-driving cars
Texas has very little in the way of autonomous car regulation, and the Google believes cars without any humans inside are legal on Texas roads. It's not the first time that companies have shifted business away from California. Toyota is in the midst of moving its North American headquarters from California to Plano, Texas because of a friendlier and cheaper business environment.
California is scheduling two public workshops to discuss the draft regulations, one on January 28th, 2016 in Sacramento, and the other in Los Angeles on February 2nd, 2016. Expect Google and other autonomous car makers to lobby hard against the regulations.