California wants driverless car regulations by end of 2014

California will have driverless car regulations in place by the end of the year as it seeks to control the way such vehicles are used within the confines of the state and will reportedly be years ahead of the rest of the country.

Related: Driverless cars to hit UK streets within two years

USA Today reports that the Department of Motor Vehicles held a public hearing in Sacramento on Tuesday that looked at the pertinent questions related to the vehicles before regulations are drawn up.

Some of the questions that officials are seeking to answer include:

  • How will the state know the cars are safe?
  • Does a driver even need to be behind the wheel?
  • Can manufacturers mine data from onboard computers to make product pitches based on where the car goes or set insurance rates based on how it is driven?

  • Do owners get docked points on their license if they send a car to park itself and it slams into another vehicle?

Much of the initial discussion centres around privacy concerns after it was revealed that “autonomous cars” must keep a log record of operations so that it can be used to reconstruct accidents if and when they happen.

On this point, John M. Simpson, of the Consumer Watchdog, stated that the vehicles "must not become another way to track us in our daily lives," adding that Google had railed against attempts in 2012 to add privacy guarantees to rules on testing of autonomous cars.

Discussion also looked at how to known a car is safe, whether or not the driver has to be in the driver’s seat or not and if tests relating to the capabilities of drivers to operate the technology need to be implemented.

Related: US Army successfully tests driverless convoy

In terms of a timescale, the draft regulations will be posted around June before being altered according to any public comment that is forthcoming and the plan is to have them finalised before the close of 2014 – years ahead of the federal government.