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California to allow driverless cars without a driver behind the wheel

Photo: 12019/Pixabay

It’s official. The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) announced that it has amended the “Testing of Autonomous Vehicles” Act to allow for driverless cars to be operated without an approved driver behind the wheel.

The new regulation goes into effect from April 2, 2018. From then on, the DMV will start issuing new permits to qualifying manufacturers interested in testing truly driverless vehicles.

“This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said. “Safety is our top concern and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California.”

This comes just less than four years after the DMV laid out the first set of rules and guidelines regarding how autonomous vehicles should be tested. However, it always required someone behind the wheel at all times. Nonetheless, these changes come in a very timely manner.

As part of the updated policy, manufacturers are required to have a remote link at all times with their vehicles and remote operator. Law enforcement officials should also be able to directly contact the operator should there be a safety concern.

Here is the full breakdown of the requirements.

Requirements for Driverless Testing include:

  • Certify that local authorities, where vehicles will be tested, have been provided written notification.
  • Certify the autonomous test vehicle complies with requirements that include a communication link between the vehicle and remote operator, a process to communicate between the vehicle and law enforcement, and an explanation of how the manufacturer will monitor test vehicles.
  • Submit a copy of a law enforcement interaction plan.
  • Certify the autonomous test vehicle meets all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) or provide evidence of an exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • Certify the autonomous test vehicle is capable of operating without the presence of a driver and meets the autonomous technology description of a Level 4 or Level 5 under the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) definitions.
  • Inform the DMV of the intended operational design domains.
  • Maintain a training program for remote operations and certify each operator has completed training.
  • Submit an annual disengagement report and submit collision reports to the DMV within 10 days.

Requirements for Deployment (Public Use) include:

  • Certify the vehicle is equipped with an autonomous vehicle data recorder, the technology is designed to detect and respond to roadway situations in compliance with California Vehicle Code, and the vehicle complies with all FMVSS or provide evidence of an exemption from NHTSA.
  • Certify the vehicle meets current industry standards to help defend against, detect and respond to cyber-attacks, unauthorized intrusions or false vehicle control commands.
  • Certify the manufacturer has conducted test and validation methods and is satisfied the vehicle is safe for deployment on public roads.
  • Submit a copy of a law enforcement interaction plan.
  • If the vehicle does not require a driver, the manufacturer must also certify to other requirements, including a communication link between the vehicle and a remote operator and the ability to display or transfer vehicle owner or operator information in the event of a collision.

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