California is easily the central hub for the developing autonomous car market in the US, and the state’s DMV has just announced some proposed rules that will keep tech and car giants happy. The suggested regulations would allow companies to test self-driving cars without the requirement that a human be present to take over. This is a reversal of rules put forth last year that required autonomous vehicles, such as Google’s, have a steering wheel in place and a human passenger at all times.
The proposal would allow such cars to begin testing on California’s public roads by the end of the year. In addition to not needing a human driver on board, car makers will not be required to install steering wheels and pedal controls if they aren’t necessary to a vehicle’s design. This would allow Google’s tiny pod-shaped cars to be tested in full capacity to see if they perform the way they’re supposed to.
This doesn’t grant anyone a free pass to put their autonomous test vehicle on the road, however. The California DMV notes that companies must still get approval from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and their cars must be “programmed” to follow the state’s traffic laws. There’s also the fact that these proposed rules must still undergo public approval before being put into effect.
California is already home to the most self-driving car tests, but the state of Michigan is quickly catching up, already approving a number of public road tests, including allowing vehicles without a driver. Car makers eventually need to test their autonomous technology to the fullest extent possible, and these rules seem geared towards keeping them in California.