Google driverless cars must boast steering wheel in road tests, at least in California

22 August 2014, 3:02 pm EDT By Joseph Mayton Tech Times
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A new set of rules from California's DMV says self-driving cars by Google must have a steering wheel for human use. The search giant says it will comply with the regulations as it develops new prototypes.  ( Wikipedia )

They might not actually need a human being in the driver's seat, but in California Google's driverless cars will be equipped with a steering wheel.

The state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has informed the search giant that all self-driving vehicles will need to have a full human control set during the testing process.

The ruling comes as Google has been publicly meandering the streets of Mountain View in the heart of Silicon Valley where the tech giant is based. The cars have been able to move throughout city streets with ease and no accidents have been reported. Still, a steering wheel and human driver behind the wheel appears to make the California DMV more supportive.

The DMV's new rules state autonomous test cars can't be on public roads unless the test driver is "either in immediate physical control of the vehicle or is actively monitoring the vehicle's operations and capable of taking over immediate physical control."

Google says it will comply with the decision and build into the vehicles temporary steering wheels and pedal systems for the prototypes it is developing.

This shouldn't be too difficult for Google, as the first driverless vehicles they put out onto the street were modified from already existing cars, meaning a steering wheel and its functionality remained. Google is now developing a new model in the state that will be completed in the coming years and has a speed capability of 25 miles per hour.

"They won't have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal ... because they don't need them," the company wrote in a blog post. "Our software and sensors do all the work."

That was before the DMV's ruling.

Google also believes it has the expertise to take self-driving cars to the next level. The company has brought on former Ford CEO Alan Mulally as part of developing the driverless vehicles for the general population, Tech Times reports.

Mulally's background should assist the company in better understanding the car industry and what consumers and regulators are looking for in terms of safety and other issues.

"A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area," Chris Urmson, the head of Google's self-driving-car project, said in a blog post discussing the advances in testing. The vehicles have been tested in urban environments recently.

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