California Will Allow Autonomous Cars Without Drivers On Its Roads Next Year

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The California Department of Motor Vehicles will allow autonomous cars without steering wheels, foot pedals, mirrors, and human drivers behind the wheel to be tested on its roads starting next year. Safety officials say they believe the vehicles will reduce crashes by taken the human error factor out of driving. Although the vehicle can be fully driving itself, the driver needs a full set of controls so that they can disengage the system at a moment's notice to avoid a collision. 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.

Companies must comply with federal safety standards and certify that their vehicles are created to follow state traffic laws, per the new set of regulations.

The revised regulations follow a 45-day public comment period during which manufacturers, consumer advocates, local governments, insurance companies and other stakeholders noted areas of the regulations they found troublesome. 42 companies are now registered with some 285 autonomous vehicles being tested now, and over 1,000 drivers are specially trained and registered to supervise those autonomous vehicles while they're on the road.

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"The department looks forward to seeing those companies and additional companies advance the technology under these new regulations", DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said. State regulators have permitted 42 companies to test self-driving vehicles in the state, up from 11 last June. The regulations are expected to be set by the end of the year and approved by the DMV early next year.

That doesn't mean you'll be able to buy a completely driverless auto next year, or even hitch a ride in one.

The DMV is trying to balance safety and technology development.

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Forty-two companies are already testing autonomous vehicles with backup drivers on California roads, using 285 vehicles, according to the DMV.

The proposed regulations recognize that responsibility for motor vehicle safety resides at the federal level, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is vested with the authority to develop and enforce compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

California has had rules in place for driverless vehicles since 2014. Companies will have to wait for approval or a waiver for exemption from the federal government before they put a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads.

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