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California approves driverless car testing on public roads

ABR Staff Writer Published 28 February 2018

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has approved driverless testing and public use rules for autonomous vehicles.

The new rules, which will come into effect from April this year, no longer require a human driver at the wheel for safety.

Until now, the rules stated that a self-driving vehicle must always have a driver for safety at all times.

Companies will have to apply for three types of testing permits which include testing with a safety driver, driverless testing and deployment for public transport.

However, there are certain pre-requisites which to be met by the companies that seek to apply for the permits. Those include notifying local authorities about the place of testing and providing them with prior written notification.

The vehicle needs to have a communication link with the remote operator and a process to communicate with law enforcement agencies. It must also meet all the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or must provide an evidence of exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For a vehicle to be able to operate without a safety driver must also meet the technology requirements of Level 4 or Level 5 under the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) definitions.

The companies must also maintain training programs for remote operators and each operator must be certified of training completion.

For vehicles which are deployed for public use must be equipped with autonomous vehicle data recorder, which is designed to detect and respond to roadway situations in compliance with California Vehicle Code.

The vehicles should also meet the current industry standards to defend against, detect and respond to cyber-attacks, unauthorized intrusions and false vehicle control commands.

The companies should also follow the same rules if it is deploying a driverless vehicle for public use including an established communication between the vehicle and vehicle operator and the process to communicate with law enforcement agencies.

DMV director Jean Shiomoto said: “This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California.

“Safety is our top concern and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California.”

DMV stated that the new regulations are not applicable to testing and deployment of self-driving trucks or other commercial vehicles. The state agency said that it will collaborate with the California Highway Patrol to start exploring safety and regulatory considerations for such vehicles.

Image: Waymo’s autonomous vehicle in Los Altos, California. Photo: Courtesy of Dllu/Wikipedia.org.