Tue. May 28th, 2024

Self-driving cars in San Francisco are exempt from traffic tickets if there is nobody in the driver’s seat, according to the San Francisco police department. California law has not kept up with autonomous vehicles, even though they are already on the road. While other states that have approved autonomous vehicles updated their laws to adapt to self-driving cars, California has not. The police can issue citations to the registered owner of an unoccupied vehicle in absentia for non-moving violations such as parking or registration offenses but not violations like speeding or running a red light. The exemption of driverless cars from traffic citations highlights concerns that laws have been slow to catch up with this technology.

California, seen as the US’s largest market for robotaxis, has not updated its roads safety protocols for autonomous vehicles. The Department of Motor Vehicles said an autonomous vehicle must be certified to comply with “all provisions of the California Vehicle Code.” However, the vehicle code does not specify how law enforcement should handle a misbehaving self-driving car and what penalties apply. The San Francisco police department clarified that it cannot issue tickets to autonomous vehicles, and other safety agencies have said they cannot enforce laws that do not exist. The Los Angeles Police Department and the California Highway Patrol did not immediately respond to requests for comment on their own policies on autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous vehicle companies Waymo and Cruise were approved to expand operations in San Francisco in August 2023, despite concerns about public safety. Following the proliferation of autonomous cars in the city, locals reported the vehicles were causing mayhem and Cruise was forced to pull its driverless cars off the road after being involved in an accident that nearly killed a pedestrian. Officials have accused the General Motors subsidiary of withholding crucial information on the accident. Cruise is not operating in a fully driverless capacity in San Francisco and declined to comment for this article. Waymo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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