Two weeks ago, California regulators unveiled revised rules that would allow self-driving cars to travel the state’s highways without human drivers for the first time as early as next year, a move that won the support of automakers. Although the driverless technology is gradually becoming mainstream, the relevant legislation and regulations is till referring to cars driven by human drivers. The companies behind the new rules include Waymo and Google’s parent company’s self-driving car unit, Alphabet Inc. Tesla, Ford, General Motors, Apple, and many others that shared their input at committee meetings in April with the state of California, backing the new suggestions.
According to the announcement, the new rule revisions will now permit automakers and tech firms to test autonomous vehicles without needing a human in the driver seat. Additionally, public use of vehicles equipped with self-driving capabilities is now allowed as long as passengers are not paying any extra fees required for their use. The new regulations are scheduled to go into effect by June 2018 and were first proposed to the public this past March. So far, they only apply to autonomous passenger vehicles and do not include commercial vehicles weighing at least 10,000 pounds or more. California agreed to offer permits for up to two years, under the situation that all vehicles must abide by state laws, “except when necessary for the safety of the vehicle’s occupants,” or others who share the road. The state would also require automakers and tech firms to record information about autonomous sensors in the 30 seconds before a collision.
According to Reuters, the California rules could still conflict with proposed federal legislation that would largely bar states from regulating autonomous vehicles, but they are certainly a boost for automakers who want to be able to deploy vehicles without human controls in California. 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 U.S. auto market.