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Calif. May Loosen Driverless Car Testing Rules

October 11, 2017

Photo of self-driving car courtesy of Waymo/FCA.
Photo of self-driving car courtesy of Waymo/FCA.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has released new proposed autonomous vehicle testing regulations, scrapping an existing requirement that a human driver must be behind the steering wheel to take control if needed.

The proposed regulations are expected to take effect by June 2018, according to the department.

“We are excited to take the next step in furthering the development of this potentially life-saving technology in California,” said California Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly.

In a released statement, the California DMV said changes to the proposed rules reflect new guidelines released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well as stakeholder feedback received in the past seven months. The previous version of the proposed regulations was released on March 10. The DMV will accept public comments on the newly proposed rules until Oct. 25.

These regulations, if enacted, are expected to position California to better compete with other states — including Michigan, Texas, Arizona and Florida — that have looser restrictions on autonomous vehicle testing. California wants to protect and build upon its status as a hub for autonomous vehicle technology.

The state is back-pedaling from earlier efforts to impose restrictions affecting autonomous vehicle design and performance standards.

“The proposed regulations recognize that responsibility for motor vehicle safety resides at the federal level, and the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) is vested with the authority to develop and enforce compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS),” the California DMV said. The state would, however, require manufacturers to certify that their self-driving vehicles meet federal safety standards before testing and deployment.

Newly proposed regulatory changes also address requirements for local notification about planned driverless testing, standards for reporting autonomous system disengagement incidents, and conditions that would prompt the need for an amended DMV application.

In California, autonomous vehicle testing regulations have been in place since 2014. A total of 42 companies hold permits to test such cars on the state’s public roads.

“The department looks forward to seeing those companies and additional companies advance the technology under these new regulations,” said Jean Shiomoto, California DMV director. “Today’s action continues the department’s efforts to complete these regulations by the end of the year.”

The proposed regulations don’t affect vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds.

To download the proposed regulations, click here.

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