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12 October 2017, 01:34 | Joann Bryant
Look no hands
That's when driverless test vehicles may be allowed to operate on roads and pick up human passengers (as long as they don't have to pay), according to a revised version of proposed regulations released Wednesday by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles. California's Department of Motor Vehicles is looking at rules that would eliminate the requirement for a backup driver at the wheel of robot cars.
More than 40 companies are testing self-driving vehicles in California with human controls, and most automakers have autonomous research centers in the state, which is the largest US auto market.
It's been announced that, starting next year, California will allow autonomous vehicles to drive on its roads without the need for a human to be sitting behind the wheel.
The new draft regulations add requirements for companies testing self-driving cars to notify local authorities about where and when the testing will occur, but impose no requirement to ask for permission, the DMV said in a conference call.
"We are excited to take the next step in furthering the development of this potentially life-saving technology in California", said Brian Kelly, state transportation secretary, in a statement.
The release of the revised regulations open a new comment period, which closes on October 25. The rule-making process could result in enactment by mid next year, Soublet said.
However, federal rules are in flux, with Congress now working to hammer out autonomous-driving regulations.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration only requires self-driving vehicles to meet federal safety requirements in the design and performance of vehicles.
Consumer Watchdog also supported a provision of the regulations that would prohibit manufacturers from using language to advertise a vehicle that would lead people to believe it is more capable of self-driving than is actually the case.
The federal law could entirely preempt states' rights to enact their own self-driving rules, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of SC law professor affiliated with Stanford's Center for Internet and Society.
The bill still has to secure a vote in the Senate, though it appears on track to pass. Current regulations are availble on the California website under the "trending" section at the DMV homepage.
Some consumer advocates had a different take. There are now 42 companies testing some 285 autonomous vehicles that are licensed with the DMV, officials said.
"DMV's initial self-driving testing rules set a high standard for the nation, demonstrating that thoughtful regulation and safety protection go hand-in-hand with innovation", said Simpson. They must provide police a way to deactivate the vehicle and communicate with the auto company. There's also a template manufacturers must fill in and submit to the department to document moments when a vehicle's autonomous mode had to be suddenly disengaged.
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