One of the issues seems to be a lack of understanding around how exactly the cars should be viewed. Are they autonomous robo-taxis or fully controllable cars with an auto-pilot function? California is grappling with the issue as the day moves closer that these cars will be available for purchase. What are your thoughts on the issue?
My main concern will be in the event of an accident... Who would be responsible?
Case 1: You would not be able to put the responsibility on the user's shoulders if you don't consider his/her possible intervention to avoid a hard situation. The operating system of the car would be the bad guy. The company of the car would then be held responsible in that case. Therefore the entire fleet could be compromised. This would be a legal and social nightmare.
Case 2: You need a specific licence and therefore are held responsible as the user and person in charge of the operation of the car. Can you claim to fully-understand the behaviour of such a complex autonomous vehicle to properly react in the event of an emergency? Maybe this would scare some. And you would still be required to know how to manoeuvre a car.
I think the first question is not the driving licence: there is a lack of regulation for autonomous vehicles .For road transportation, most of our countries respect Geneva Convention and then Vienna Convention ( 1968 ) : according to this, all vehicle must have a driver, and the driver must take care of vehicle control . He is the only one responsible. That means that all automated functions are considered as driver assistance, as the cruise control for example.
There is a NHTSA classification for automated driving vehicles : from level 0 ( no automation ) to level 4 ( full automation ) . Our current cars cover 0 to 2 level . The google car, as an example, is level 3 . The current regulation may cover also 0 to 3, but the driver would not be allowed to do anything else than driving or at least supervising, so the interest is limited.
To imagin level 3 and 4 cars and allow driver to do anything else, looking for your mails, sleeping ..or no driver at all , you need a completely different regulation context . And driving licence will be a part of it, as a consequence .