With auto officials saying driverless cars could be available by the end of the decade, California officials want to hear from the public on how to regulate the vehicles.
Nearly 30 people attended a workshop held by the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento on Friday where DMV officials were seeking public input on possible regulations of the driverless cars, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Mountain View-based Google Inc. has been testing the cars also known as autonomous vehicles for several years in the San Francisco Bay area.
Google's cars have gone nearly 400,000 miles with just one reported accident, the Mercury News said Saturday.
Still, with the DMV acknowledging the department is heading into unchartered territory, regulators need to determine such things as who would be at fault in a crash the driver or the manufacturer. There are also questions to be answered if a driverless car fails to detect stopped traffic because of heavy rain, fog or snow.
Or if it gets off a freeway ramp too fast, or fails to stop at a stop sign or red light.
"I think we understand that'' these issues need resolving, said Brian Soublet, who moderated the event for the DMV, adding that "public safety has to be paramount.''
Representatives of the auto industry said California is set to take the lead in the testing of driverless cars, so they are pushing back against too much regulation.
"But if we make the rules so restrictive, it'll be easy for manufacturers to go across the border to Nevada, where they are testing them, or even Florida,'' said Steven Siko, a safety manager for Chrysler.
"I appreciate that this is a tough spot for the DMV to be in, but the intent of the law is for California to be a leader,'' he said. But safety advocates are urging regulators to proceed with caution on the issue.
"I have some trepidation,'' said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability. "There's an overriding need to go forward with this technology to deal with driver errors, which are so prevalent.''