BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  SB 1298
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   June 25, 2012

                               Bonnie Lowenthal, Chair
                    SB 1298 (Padilla) - As Amended:  June 19, 2012

           SENATE VOTE  :  37-0
          SUBJECT  :  Autonomous vehicles

          SUMMARY  :  Establishes conditions for the operation of autonomous 
          vehicles upon public roadways.  Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Makes legislative findings and declarations regarding new 
            technologies that permit motor vehicles to operate without the 
            active control and continuous monitoring of a human operator 
            and the need to encourage the current and future development, 
            testing, and operation of autonomous vehicles on the state's 
            public roads.  

          2)Defines "autonomous technology" as a technology that has the 
            capability to drive a vehicle without the active physical 
            control or continuous monitoring by a human operator.  

          3)Defines an "autonomous vehicle" as any vehicle equipped with 
            autonomous technology that has been integrated into that 

          4)Specifies that an autonomous vehicle does not include a 
            vehicle that is equipped with one or more collision avoidance 
            systems, including, but not limited to, electronic blind spot 
            assistance, automated emergency braking systems, park assist, 
            adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure 
            warning, traffic jam and queuing assist, or other similar 
            systems that enhance safety or provide driver assistance, but 
            are not capable, collectively or singularly, of driving the 
            vehicle without the active control or monitoring of a human 

          5)Defines an "operator" of an autonomous vehicle as the person 
            who is seated in the driver's seat or causes the autonomous 
            technology to engage.  

          6)Defines a "manufacturer" of autonomous technology as the 
            person who originally manufactures a vehicle and equips 


                                                                  SB 1298
                                                                  Page  2

            autonomous technology on the originally completed vehicle or, 
            in the case of a vehicle not originally equipped with 
            autonomous technology by the vehicle manufacturer, the person 
            that modifies the vehicle by installing autonomous technology 
            to convert it to an autonomous vehicle after the vehicle was 
            originally manufactured.  

          7)Allows an autonomous vehicle to be operated on public roads by 
            a driver who possesses the proper license for the vehicle 
            being operated if it is being operated on roads in this state 
            solely by employees, contractors, or other persons designated 
            by the manufacturer of the autonomous technology for testing 
            purposes.  Under this scenario, the driver must be seated in 
            the driver's seat, monitoring the safe operation of the 
            autonomous vehicle, and shall be capable of taking over 
            immediate manual control of the autonomous vehicle in the 
            event of an autonomous technology failure or other emergency.  
            Prior to the start of testing in this state, the person 
            performing the testing must obtain an instrument of insurance, 
            surety bond, or proof of self-insurance in the amount of $5 
            million dollars.  

          8)Allows, alternatively, such vehicles to be operated on public 
            roads if the manufacturer of the autonomous technology 
            provides all of the following:

               a)     The autonomous vehicle has a mechanism to engage and 
                 disengage the autonomous technology that is easily 
                 accessible to the operator.  

               b)     The autonomous vehicle has a visual indicator inside 
                 the cabin to indicate when the autonomous technology is 

               c)     The autonomous vehicle has a system to safely alert 
                 the operator if an autonomous technology failure is 
                 detected while the autonomous technology is engaged, and 
                 when an alert is given, the system does either of the 

               i)     Require the operator to take control of the 
                 autonomous vehicle.  

                  ii)       Allow the autonomous vehicle to come to a 
                    complete stop if the operator does not or is unable to 


                                                                  SB 1298
                                                                  Page  3

                    take control of the autonomous vehicle.  

               d)     The autonomous vehicle allows the operator to take 
                 control in multiple manners, including, without 
                 limitation, through the use of the brake, the accelerator 
                 pedal, or the steering wheel, and alerts the operator 
                 that the autonomous technology has been disengaged.  

               e)     The autonomous vehicle's autonomous technology meets 
                 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for the vehicle's 
                 model year and all other applicable safety standards and 
                 performance requirements set forth in state and federal 
                 law and the regulations promulgated pursuant to those 

               f)     The autonomous technology does not make inoperative 
                 any Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for the 
                 vehicle's model year and all other applicable safety 
                 standards and performance requirements set forth in state 
                 and federal law and the regulations promulgated pursuant 
                 to those laws.  

               g)     The autonomous vehicle has a separate mechanism, in 
                 addition to and separate from any other mechanism 
                 required by law, to capture and store the autonomous 
                 technology sensor data for at least thirty seconds before 
                 a collision occurs between the autonomous vehicle and 
                 another vehicle, object, or natural person while the 
                 vehicle is operating in autonomous mode.  The autonomous 
                 technology sensor data must be captured and stored in a 
                 read-only format by the mechanism so that the data is 
                 retained until extracted from the mechanism by an 
                 external device capable of downloading and storing the 
                 data. Such data must be preserved for three years after 
                 the date of the collision.  

          1)Prohibits an autonomous vehicle from being operated on public 
            roads unless a licensed driver is seated in the driver's seat 
            of the vehicle until such time that an autonomous vehicle 
            meets the requirements established by the National Highway 
            Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the State of 
            California establishes regulations or standards for the 
            operation of autonomous vehicles.  

          2)Sunsets the above prohibition on January 1, 2017.  


                                                                  SB 1298
                                                                  Page  4

          3)Prohibits an autonomous vehicle from being operated on public 
            roads, other than by manufacturers' representatives for 
            testing purposes, unless the manufacturer first submits an 
            application to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that 
            contains, at a minimum, a certification by the manufacturer 
            that the autonomous technology meets all of the required 
            capabilities described above; that the manufacturer has tested 
            the autonomous technology on public roads; and that the 
            manufacturer will maintain a surety bond, or proof of 
            self-insurance, in an amount of $5 million to compensate for 
            losses due to injuries or property damage caused by a defect 
            in the autonomous technology.  

          4)Allows DMV, prior to January 1, 2014, to adopt regulations 
            setting forth requirements for the submission and approval of 
            an application to operate autonomous vehicles pursuant to 
            these provisions.   

          5)Allows DMV to establish additional requirements by rule which 
            it determines, in consultation with the California Highway 
            Patrol (CHP), are necessary to ensure the safe operation of 
            autonomous vehicles on public roads.  

          6)Provides that this bill does not limit or expand the existing 
            authority to operate autonomous vehicles on public roads, 
            until 120 days after DMV adopts those regulations.  

          7)Provides that federal regulations promulgated by the NHTSA 
            will supersede this bill's provisions when found to be in 
            conflict with them.  

           EXISTING LAW  : 

          1)Defines a vehicle as "a device by which any person or property 
            may be propelled, moved, or drawn upon a highway, excepting a 
            device moved exclusively by human power or used exclusively 
            upon stationary rails or tracks."  

          2)Provides numerous rules governing the operation of vehicles on 
            the state's public and private roads but does not, however, 
            require that a person drive the vehicle.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown.  This bill was withdrawn from the 
          Senate Appropriations Committee pursuant to Senate Rule 28.8.  


                                                                  SB 1298
                                                                  Page  5

           COMMENTS  :  The author notes that despite the many safety 
          improvements to the automobile since its invention, auto 
          accidents remain a leading cause of death.  The Centers for 
          Disease Control (CDC) reports that motor vehicle crashes are the 
          leading cause of death among people 5 through 34 years old.  In 
          2009, more than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were 
          treated in emergency rooms as the result of being injured in 
          motor vehicle crashes nationwide.  Additionally, according to 
          NHTSA, in 2010, a total of 32,885 people died in the United 
          States in car accidents.  More than 2,700 of these traffic 
          fatalities were in California.  Car accidents also result in a 
          significant economic cost.  A 2005 CDC report found that the 
          lifetime cost of crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers 
          and passengers was $70 billion.  

          The author points out that the vast majority of traffic 
          fatalities and injuries are due to human error, noting that a 
          2006 U.S. Department of Transportation study found that some 
          form of driver error occurred in nearly 80% of car accidents.  
          The author asserts that through the use of computers, sensors 
          and other systems, an autonomous vehicle is capable of analyzing 
          the driving environment more quickly and operating a vehicle 
          more safely than a human being.  And, as supporters point out, 
          driverless vehicles hold the promise of tremendous mobility 
          opportunities for individuals whose physical conditions render 
          them unable to drive themselves.  

          This bill is intended to enable California to join several other 
          states in seeking safe testing and operational standards for 
          autonomous vehicles.  Last year, the State of Nevada enacted a 
          similar bill into law.  (The Nevada DMV recently issued to 
          Google the first license in that state to test autonomous 
          vehicles.)  In addition, Florida recently passed legislation and 
          Hawaii, Oklahoma, and Arizona are all currently considering 
          legislation regarding autonomous vehicles.   The author and 
          supporters note that as a global technology leader, California 
          is uniquely positioned to be the leader in the deployment of 
          autonomous technology and the manufacture of autonomous 
          vehicles.  He states that this technology will not only save 
          lives, it will create jobs.  

          The federal government has yet to regulate autonomous vehicles 
          in any fashion.  NHTSA, the entity responsible for developing 


                                                                  SB 1298
                                                                  Page  6

          Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, has yet to initiate a 
          process to develop standards for autonomous vehicle technology, 
          and even once it does so, it likely will take several years to 
          finalize those standards.  It is not uncommon, however, for 
          federal standards to lag innovation in the auto industry and for 
          manufacturers to add safety improvements to vehicles prior to 
          the development of applicable standards.  

          Clearly, technology in this area is advancing dramatically and 
          it is logical and desirable that California, home to many of the 
          world's technology giants, should be in the vanguard of the 
          development of autonomous vehicles.  But the move to driverless 
          automotive transportation cannot be embarked upon without 
          careful consideration.  The current version of this bill 
          represents a sincere attempt by the author and supporters to 
          meet a variety of concerns and to balance numerous overlapping 
          interests.  There are, however, a number of issues that remain 

          First, automobile makers fear that when this technology is added 
          on to the vehicles they have designed for use by human 
          operators, they may be drawn into liability litigation upon an 
          accident caused by the failure of that after-market equipment or 
          of its installation rather than due to any inherent safety 
          problem with the vehicle itself.  Although the author asserts 
          that existing tort law absolves them of any liability in such 
          instances, the automakers understandably desire explicit 
          language in the bill to make this clear.  

          Secondly, privacy advocates are troubled by the ability of this 
          technology to collect without restriction large amounts of data 
          and are asking that data collection be limited to only that data 
          that is necessary for the operation of the vehicle and that such 
          data not be retained any longer than is necessary for the 
          operation of the vehicle - unless the vehicle owner provides 
          informed opt-in consent for such collection.  

          Finally, some observers wonder if this bill is premature in 
          providing a mechanism that potentially allows driverless 
          operation, rather than waiting to pursue such statutory 
          authorization at such time as extensive on-road experience 


                                                                  SB 1298
                                                                  Page  7

          indicates it is timely to do so.  


          Suggested Committee amendments  :  

          1)While restrictions on data collection might be desirable to 
            assure that consumer privacy is protected, there is some 
            question as to how the technology manufacturer would determine 
            what constitutes "data necessary for the operation of the 
            vehicle."  As an alternative, the Committee suggests the bill 
            be amended to require the manufacturer to disclose to 
            consumers what data actually will be collected.  In this 
            manner, the consumer can then make an informed choice as to 
            whether he or she wishes to purchase the technology, given its 
            data collection capabilities. 

          2)Successful testing and operation of this technology with 
            drivers behind the wheel will no doubt prepare the public for 
            the eventual driverless operation of autonomous vehicles.  
            Once assured that these vehicles can safely drive themselves, 
            a future legislature will almost certainly want to provide 
            statutory authorization for driverless operation.  At this 
            point, however, that assurance has not been achieved.  The 
            Committee therefore suggests that provisions that potentially 
            authorize driverless operation be removed from the bill.       

          3)The bill currently allows the use of autonomous technology to 
            move beyond the employee-testing phase to use by the general 
            public when its manufacturer submits "a certification that the 
            manufacturer has tested the autonomous technology on public 
            roads."  This provides no assurance that the technology is in 
            any way safe or effective.  The Committee suggests the bill be 
            amended so that the testing standards are developed and test 
            results are evaluated by an independent third party, approved 
            by DMV, such as the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC 
            Berkeley or the CHP.    



                                                                  SB 1298
                                                                  Page  8

          California Chapter of the American Fence Association
          California Fence Contractors' Association
          California Foundation for Independent Living Centers
          Engineering Contractors' Association
          Flasher Barricade Association
          Marin Builders Association
          Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association
          Personal Insurance Federation of California
          Technology Association of America

          Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
          Consumer Alert
          Global Automakers 

          Analysis Prepared by  :   Howard Posner / TRANS. / (916) 319-2093