California will allow self-driving cars without humans inside from 2018

The revised regulations put forward by the California Department of Motor Vehicles would also allow ordinary members of the public to clamber on board autonomous vehicles for the first time.

"This amendment was necessary because requiring the technology to be "both remote and on board" could be unnecessarily limiting on the development of the technology; changing it to "and/or" provides the flexibility that the technology can reside either entirely, or partially, on or off-board", the DMV said of the rule changes.

The state's Department of Motor Vehicles has proposed new regulations to allow for permitting and less restrictive public testing of autonomous vehicles.

Taking effect by June of 2018, the revised regulations will allow the testing of autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel and will allow the public to use vehicles equipped with autonomous technology.

Also, firms testing autonomous vehicles with backup drivers will be required to use a standardized template for reporting "disengagements" that occur when the backup driver has to take over operation of the vehicle. "That means in fleet vehicles, or leasing arrangements, or sales of vehicles". Current regulations are availble on the California website under the "trending" section at the DMV homepage. This iteration of the rules comes as a result of those conversations and the accompanying public comment.

That framework, which could be tweaked in coming weeks, also would let companies begin testing prototypes with neither a steering wheel nor pedals-and indeed nobody at all inside. Almost 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 new rules do not, however, relax prohibitions against testing autonomous vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds. A Senate committee approved a similar measure last week by a voice vote.

Waymo, the self-driving auto unit of Google parent company Alphabet Inc, Ford Motor Co, Tesla Inc, Apple Inc, General Motors Co had sought changes in California.

The new rules represent a compromise with automotive and technology companies, which had objected to numerous requirements previously proposed by the state.

The DMV made sure to emphasize that they were not attempting to override any decision by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which would be in charge of enforcing any Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that may relate to autonomous vehicles.

Vanessa Coleman