Economy

California is removing its most controversial driverless vehicle rule

California officials took a major step Wednesday toward allowing companies to test autonomous cars without anyone at the wheel or even in the auto, releasing a set of regulations on how those tests can be conducted.

Previously, the regulations stated that the vehicle could not be "operated or drive, without active physical control by a natural person sitting in the vehicle's driver's seat".

Sacramento city officials have invited companies to test their cars in the capital city, saying they want it to be an incubator for the new technology. Almost 1,000 safety drivers are licensed to test those vehicles, but after the state's rules go into effect, companies would be allowed to deploy cars without any human behind the wheel.

Assuming no further problems or arguments arise in the next fifteen day public comment period, the new set of rules will be handed over to the state government to finalize.

"The regulations continue to require the manufacturers to certify they're meeting federal safety standards as a prerequisite both for testing and deployment on our streets and roads", Soublet said. California proposed draft regulations in December 2015 that required a driver to remain behind the wheel, resulting in pushback from Google's self-driving unit and others.

"The department looks forward to seeing those companies and additional companies advance the technology under these new regulations", DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said.

The department received substantial feedback from manufacturers, consumer advocates, local government, insurance companies, and other stakeholders after it released a previous version of these regulations on March 10, 2017.

Given the number of tech companies in the state, California is the most important state in the country when it comes to testing autonomous vehicles. The regulations are expected to be set by the end of the year and approved by the DMV early next year.

Under the rules, self-driving vehicles must meet federal safety standards imposed by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

There are a few states in the country that have allowed companies to test their autonomous cars on public roads.

The new regulations would trim back existing rules that require municipalities to approve vehicle testing.

Also, firms testing autonomous vehicles with backup drivers will be required to use a standardized template for reporting "disengagements" that occur when the backup driver has to take over operation of the vehicle.



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