- Self-driving vehicles in California that violate traffic laws will not receive tickets, according to a recent report by NBC News.
- While autonomous cars have been seen breaking traffic laws, current California law prevents law enforcement from issuing tickets if no driver is present.
- Despite this, self-driving cars can and have received parking citations, and in other states like Texas and Arizona, they can be issued traffic citations.
In a recent revelation by NBC News, it has been reported that self-driving vehicles in California, which fail to adhere to traffic laws, will not be ticketed.
The report highlighted instances of autonomous vehicles, powered by artificial intelligence, running red lights, invading construction zones, and not giving way to emergency vehicles. Despite these violations, current California law prohibits law enforcement officials from issuing traffic tickets if no driver is present in the car.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, in an internal memo obtained by NBC News, stated, “[N]o citation for a moving violation can be issued if the [autonomous vehicle] is being operated in a driverless mode.”
He further added, “Technology evolves rapidly and, at times, faster than legislation or regulations can adapt to the changes.”
While state law prevents autonomous vehicles from receiving any moving violation tickets, they can and have received parking citations, according to the report.
In addition to California, Texas and Arizona have also become testing grounds for driverless vehicle technology. However, the laws in these states differ. In Texas, autonomous cars are “considered the operator” and can receive a citation without a person inside the vehicle.
Arizona law, on the other hand, states that the vehicle’s owner “may be issued a traffic citation or other applicable penalty if the vehicle fails to comply with traffic or motor vehicle laws.”
Chris Ludwick, Waymo’s product management director, told NBC News that self-driving vehicles are “being held to the highest standard.”
He further stated, “Whether the police department has the jurisdiction to cite a driverless vehicle, we certainly do everything we can to ensure the car’s behavior is good.”
The report also revealed that neither Waymo nor Cruise vehicles have been involved in a traffic-related death. Waymo’s autonomous cars have logged over seven million miles of drive time, while Cruise has traveled over 5 million miles.
Despite the claims by technology companies that their vehicles are safer than human drivers, California suspended Cruise’s testing permits in October over safety concerns, as reported by Blaze News. This decision followed an incident where a pedestrian was dragged under one of its vehicles after being hit by another car operated by a human.
Cruise was permitted to continue testing with a safety driver behind the wheel. However, the following month, the company announced it would recall its entire fleet. Currently, Cruise is under two separate investigations.
In a November blog post, Cruise stated, “We recently announced a pause of all our driverless operations while we take time to examine our processes, systems, and tools and improve how we operate. During this time we plan to seek input from our government and agency partners and other key stakeholders to understand how we can be better partners.”
California Democratic state Senator Dave Cortese is advocating for the state to establish a new regulatory agency to focus on autonomous technology.
He said, “Like when we got the [Federal Aviation Agency] years ago, we’re going to have to do that here. And in order to do that here, we need to get started yesterday.”
Clear Thoughts (op-ed)
California’s recent decision to exempt self-driving cars from traffic tickets is a striking example of the state’s skewed priorities. It’s a glaring instance of technocratic rule, where the rush to embrace the latest technology trumps the need for public safety and accountability.
While we can concede that technology evolves at a pace that legislation often struggles to keep up with, it’s no excuse for the law to turn a blind eye to traffic violations committed by autonomous vehicles. They should be held to the same standards as human drivers, as they share the same roads and pose the same risks.
In contrast, Texas and Arizona have shown a more balanced approach, ensuring that self-driving cars can be held accountable for traffic violations. These states recognize that while technological advancement is imperative, it shouldn’t come at the expense of public safety.
Interestingly, autonomous vehicle companies claim their vehicles are safer than human drivers, yet we’ve seen California suspend testing permits due to safety concerns. This contradiction fuels skepticism about the reliability of these technologies and their readiness to take over our roads.
The call for a new regulatory agency to focus on autonomous technology is a step in the right direction. Like the Federal Aviation Agency, it’s high time we had a dedicated body ensuring these technologies adhere to safety standards and legal requirements.
In the end, it’s not about stifling innovation, but ensuring it doesn’t come at the expense of public safety.
Let us know what you think, please share your thoughts in the comments below.