California DMV eyes altering regs to allow testing of completely driverless vehicles

Totally autonomous cars with no drivers, no passengers nor steering wheels are set to roll out onto California's streets under rules proposed by the U.S. state's Department of Motor Vehicles. Bernard Soriano with the California DMV said that's part one of the new rules proposal.

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.

"What we're setting up is, as [car companies] develop the technology, if they are prepared to start testing them without a driver present in the vehicle, they would be able to apply and get a permit from the department to do so", Soublet told reporters. "That means in fleet vehicles, or leasing arrangements, or sales of vehicles". The California DMV retains discretion to approve these applications if it is satisfied with the manufacturer's testing for safety on public roads. This iteration of the rules comes as a result of those conversations and the accompanying public comment.

It's worth noting that self-driving trucks (or any autonomous vehicle weighing over 10,000 lbs) will still require a human behind the wheel.

Now the state has permitted 42 manufacturers to test some 285 vehicles and 996 drivers, according to DMV statistics.

Congress is now considering legislation that would allow companies to manufacture and deploy cars without traditional controls like pedals and steering wheels. A Senate committee approved a similar measure last week by a voice vote.

The public is invited to provide feedback on the proposed changes over the next 15 days, after which the regulations will be handed over to the state government to ratification.

But Congress is considering increasing federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) exemption caps from 2,500 to 100,000 - which is a wonky way of saying that it would allow automakers and tech firms to test (and eventually deploy) tens of thousands autonomous vehicles without components designed with humans in mind and required by federal safety standards. 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.

While developers of autonomous vehicles have not always had welcome news from the California DMV, they recently received some helpful clarity on the regulations applicable to autonomous vehicle testing on California public roads.

Related News: