Driverless cars in California are exempt from certain traffic tickets thanks to a legal loophole, report says

  • Law enforcers in California are reportedly unable to give driverless cars certain traffic tickets. 
  • Specifically, for moving violations such as speeding, per NBC. 
  • Self-driving cars are under scrutiny following a series of high-profile crashes and incidents. 

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Driverless cars are facing a growing backlash after a series of high-profile accidents — but in California, they are reportedly avoiding traffic tickets.

Thanks to a loophole in California law, police are unable to give driverless cars traffic tickets, according to an NBC report, as offending vehicles can only be booked if there is an actual driver at the wheel.

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

“Technology evolves rapidly and, at times, faster than legislation or regulations can adapt to the changes,” Scott reportedly wrote.

The loophole only applies to moving violations such as speeding, with driverless cars still able to receive parking fines.

Business Insider contacted the San Francisco Police Department for further comment but didn’t immediately hear back.

Unlike California, Texas, and Arizona — which have also been used as a testing ground for driverless cars — have passed laws holding companies who operate autonomous vehicles responsible for any driving infractions.

Driverless cars have faced growing scrutiny in recent months following a series of high-profile incidents.

GM-owned Cruise recalled its entire fleet of robotaxis in San Francisco last in November after a pedestrian was dragged 20 feet under one of its cars after being hit by another vehicle.

Cruise’s robotaxis have been criticized as being disruptive and dangerous by locals. The company has since been banned from operating its autonomous vehicles in California and faces an investigation by federal regulators.

Several senior executives, including CEO and cofounder Kyle Vogt, have departed and Cruise has conducted sweeping layoffs, with Vogt’s replacement Mo Elshenawy reportedly telling staff the company was at an “all-time low” in a December all-hands.

Both Cruise and its rival Waymo — which is still operating in San Francisco — have insisted that their driverless cars are safer than human drivers.

Alphabet-owned Waymo has said that its vehicles are 6.7 times less likely to be in injury-causing crashes.

The two companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI, made outside normal working hours.

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tcarter@insider.com Tom Carter