Yesterday, we brought you news that Audi, Mercedes-Benz and software giant Google were the first companies to apply to the state of California for autonomous vehicle permits, allowing them to publicly test self-driving cars on the roads of California.
But while Audi can lay claim to being the first company to receive its autonomous driving permit from the California DMV, it’s Google — and its massive self-driving car program — which can lay claim to having the most permits.
[EDIT: A previous version of this post incorrectly asserted that the bill for the self-driving permits topped $125 million, $5 million for each car. This was incorrect, and we apologise for any confusion it may have caused. Thank you to the California DMV for pointing out this error.]
As The Associated Press reports, Google accounts for twenty-five out of the twenty-nine self-driving car permits currently issued by the California DMV, with each of its fleet of self-driving Lexus hybrid SUVs getting its own permit to drive under supervision on the roads of California.
Under the regulations which came into force earlier this week, any company applying for a self-driving permit for the purposes of testing autonomous vehicle technologies must agree to a surety bond of at least $5 million for
each and every vehicle they wish to have approved for road testing. for its autonomous vehicle test fleet in order to be allocated a permit.
For those who don’t know, a surety bond is essentially a company-backed promise that they have and will be willing to pay out the bond’s value if they fail to meet a specific set of criteria. Or more appropriately in this case, a self-driving car ends up on some out-of-control rampage.
In essence, the minimum $5 million surety will not only cover any damage caused by a malfunctioning self-driving car, but also act as an insurance policy in the event of a collision with another road user. Mandated under a raft of regulations recently adopted by the California DMV as a result of a 2012 legislative bill signed by state governor Jerry Brown, the bond also helps ensure that only companies who really have the time, expertise and money to seriously invest in self-driving technology get to test their cars on the road.
In addition, Google, like other self-driving permit applicants, needs to report any and all accidents to the California DMV immediately, and ensure that the person supervising the car from behind the wheel has a spotless driving license. That means no past convictions, speeding tickets, or other misdemeanours.
Luckily for Google, its self-driving cars have a pretty safe track record, with the only accidents between their self-driving cars and other road users occurring when the car was being driven in ‘normal’ mode by a human rather than under computer control.
As long as it keeps that up, it won’t have to touch that $5 million insurance pot.
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