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Are Driverless Cars Coming to California Next Year?

California is now one step closer to allowing driverless cars on its roads, which is fitting, given that the golden state is the country’s hotbed of autonomous vehicle testing.

New Rules

The California Department of Motor Vehicles released revised regulations in October regarding the deployment of autonomous cars on public streets. Starting in mid-2018, cars without steering wheels, foot pedals, mirrors and human drivers behind the wheel can hit the highway in the state.

The rules are a stark departure from the original proposal issued in 2015. Those initial regulations would have quashed driverless cars. But in May of that year the DMV backtracked, releasing a revised proposal that not only gave the green light for the testing of automated vehicles, but also regulated the creation and sale of fully automated vehicles.

Tweaks and Revisions

In October, the DMV released a number of small revisions to the proposal, including new rules that require manufacturers to let local governments know when they plan on testing driverless cars in their cities or towns. Additionally, the DMV is also issuing a new template for manufacturers to report the number of times the vehicle forced the human driver to take control of the car because the vehicle couldn’t safely navigate the conditions on a particular road.

Now that these changes are in place, companies like Google and Uber may be breathing a sigh of relief, as both are developing fleets of driverless cars.

Moving Forward

And while this looks to be a free pass for driverless cars to take over California roads, there are still heavy restrictions. Manufacturers would still need to obtain approval or a waiver for exemption from the federal government before a self-driving car can take to the streets without a human driver.

On a much bigger scale, Congress is currently considering legislation that would allow companies to build and deploy cars without traditional controls like pedals and steering wheels. The bills would also prevent states from creating their own laws overseeing autonomous testing.

Leave it to progressive, forward-thinking California for furthering the technology of driving, sans drivers.

Editor’s Note: Since this is new technology, some terms are new or being newly applied. To make some minor semantic differences clearer to the average consumer, we’ve created a separate article that points out the differences and similarities in words like “Self-driving” and “Autonomous.” For consistency, we have also updated the text in this article.

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