Companies testing self-driving cars in the five boroughs will have to answer to new rules of the road. Guidelines adopted by NYC went into effect in September, requiring that companies receive a permit before testing autonomous vehicles. The requirement came less than a week after a hearing at which several automotive industry groups warned the plan could prompt companies to stop testing in the city.

Mobileye, a technology company owned by Intel, began testing a self-driving vehicle in NYC this summer under a state permit. The company’s arrival prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to accelerate the new regulation.

“The city does not currently have a role in the review of applications for the autonomous vehicles permit issued [by the state] and is not informed when a company will be approved to begin testing,” city Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman noted. “It is therefore urgent for this rule to take effect as soon as possible so that the city can monitor the safety of this emerging technology while it is operated on public roadways.”

The permit requires that autonomous vehicle companies:

  • Pay a $5,000 annual fee for the testing permit.
  • Prove that, based on previous evaluations, the autonomous technology can operate more safely than a human driver.
  • Certify that a licensed driver will be present in the driver’s seat at all times and be able to take over the vehicle.
  • Submit a detailed safety plan for operating in New York that includes the geographic areas the company plans to test.
  • Carry at least $10 million in total insurance coverage for automobile, personal liability and property damage.
  • Indemnify the city against all legal liabilities related to the testing.
  • Share data on where cars operate, total miles, how long backup drivers are in the vehicle and any instances when the operator takes over the vehicle.
  • Report any crash to the city within four hours. (Companies also are required to report crashes to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.)

Companies caught testing a self-driving car on city streets without a permit face fines of up to $5,000 per day.

The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, a group representing autonomous-driving companies, warned during a recent virtual hearing that a “patchwork of local regulations” could slow testing in the New York market.

Source: Crain’s New York Business