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. The department released its revised regulations today governing the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads. After a 15-day public comment period, those rules will be submitted to the state government, which will then begin enforcing them sometime in the middle of 2018.
California is an obvious hotbed for autonomous vehicle testing, so changes made to the state’s rules governing these tests are followed closely by companies like Google and Uber that are developing fleets of self-driving cars for public use. There are currently 42 companies testing some 285 autonomous vehicles that are licensed with the DMV, officials said. Nearly 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.
The state is not changing its prohibition on the testing of autonomous trucks, arguing that a separate rule-making process will be needed to allow for the testing of self-driving vehicles over 10,000 pounds.
Congress is currently considering legislation that would allow companies to manufacture and deploy cars without traditional controls like pedals and steering wheels. The proposed bills would also preempt states from establishing their own laws overseeing autonomous testing, which could clash with California’s well-established system.