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California autonomous vehicles not subject to traffic tickets, report says

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(The Center Square) – According to a NBC report, driverless cars in California can’t be ticketed by police for traffic violations, leading some to question whether state regulations are ready for this emerging technology.

In an internal memo from San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott obtained by NBC, officers were told “no citation for a moving violation can be issued if the [autonomous vehicle] is being operated in a driverless mode.”

While autonomous vehicles in California can still be ticketed for parking violations, the two other states that allow for autonomous vehicle testing — Arizona and Texas — hold the vehicle operator, such as Google’s Waymo or GM’s Cruise, responsible for traffic citations.

Nevertheless, the Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association says that California law nonetheless holds autonomous vehicle operators accountable.

“In California, AVs must comply with traffic laws as a condition of operating in the state, and California traffic laws do not apply only to human drivers,” said AVIA chief executive officer Jeff Farrah in a statement to The Center Square.

In October, the California Department of Motor Vehicles suspended Cruise’s operation of autonomous vehicles in the state after finding its systems “not safe.” Due to allegedly withholding information from the state, Cruise could face fines of up to $100,000 per day per violation in response to the state’s inquiry into a nearly fatal October 2 incident involving an autonomous vehicle. These fines could add up to millions of dollars.

In November, State Senator Dave Cortese, D–Los Gatos, initiated an investigation into the state’s issuing of driverless car permits.

“We need clear regulations that keep pace with technology, creating innovation while protecting public safety and addressing issues like sudden starts and stops, traffic blockage, and cooperation with our first responders on the road,” said Cortese, a member of the California Senate Transportation Committee, in a statement.

With Cruise suspended, only Waymo remains approved for California roads.

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