California Says Autonomous Cars Don't Need Human Drivers

Currently, California law requires that all self-driving cars used for testing purposes be done with a human behind the wheel, so that they can take control if necessary. While California has been fairly strict on how self-driving cars are to be used in the state, they appear to be relaxing several of the rules. “The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles released proposed regulations Friday for autonomous vehicles, dropping an earlier requirement that a human driver had to be present while testing on public roads,” reports Bloomberg. “The DMV also backed down on a previous rule that vehicles needed a steering wheel and pedals for the operator to take back control.” From the report: “When we think of driverless vehicles they can either have conventional controls, which are steering wheels, pedals, things like that, or they cannot,” said California DMV Chief Counsel Brian Soublet during a conference call with reporters. If companies test vehicles without conventional controls, they have to show the California DMV that they have approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, he added. NHTSA said in early 2016 that self-driving software systems, not just humans, can be considered drivers. “If California was going to keep that level of development activity in the state, what they did was necessary and timely,” said Eric Noble, president of The CarLab, an automotive consulting firm. “They kind of had to do it because at some point manufacturers can’t move autonomous vehicles forward without getting controls out of cars.” The proposed regulations have a 45-day public comment period that ends April 24. That will be followed by a public hearing. During Friday’s conference call, the California DMV said the rules should be completed by the end of the year.

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