It sounds reasonable on the surface, but from Google's vantage point, the DMV is essentially placing a ceiling on autonomous driving technology. Google is looking to totally transform the driving experience and has designed vehicles that, when finished, would lack a steering wheel or pedals. Part of the thinking behind that approach is to make the technology accessible to people who are physically unable to drive a car.
"In developing vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button, we’re hoping to transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error or bringing everyday destinations within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car," Google spokesman Johnny Luu said in a statement.
Luu went on to stress that Google is highly focused on safety and its "gravely disappointed that California is already writing a ceiling on the potential for fully self-driving cars to help all of use who live here."
The DMV's proposed rules would limited how much of Google's vision could be accomplished. As written, a human driver with a special "autonomous vehicle operator certificate" would have to be in the self-driving car whenever it's operational, and he or she would be responsible for anything that goes wrong.
In addition, autonomous car makers would have to put their cars through third-party safety testing, report accidents on a regular basis, incorporate technology to prevent hacking and alert the driver if it should happen, and let passengers know the extent of data collection that's occurring.
There's chatter that Google might make its self-driving car division a separate entity under Alphabet, the parent company Google formed earlier this year to back ambitious projects would previously be owned or attached to Google.