"The word "both" has been replaced with "and/or" to indicate that the hardware and software can be either in the vehicle or remote".
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has updated its rules governing self-driving vehicle testing, removing the requirement that a human backup driver be present in the auto and ready to take over.
Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has called for the California DMV to disallow self-driving vehicles to operate without a driver behind the wheel until NHTSA passes enforceable standards for the cars.
Officials hope to submit final regulations by the end of this year and allow the cars to pick up non-paying passengers without a backup driver by June. 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. Those critics have said states with softer regulations were attracting companies for driverless testing and putting California's reputation as the nation's technology innovation leader at risk.
Given the number of tech companies in the state, California is the most important state in the country when it comes to testing autonomous vehicles. On the one hand, unplanned disengagements - that is, times when the autonomous system either turns itself off because it's unsure how to deal with specific road conditions, or when a human operator has to assume control - do still happen, despite the maturity of numerous systems.
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The new regulations would require that manufacturers testing driverless cars on California roads certify that they're meeting federal standards and that any public paperwork shared with federal regulators on driverless testing is also passed to the DMV. In addition, manufacturers must also certify their vehicles are created to operate in compliance with state traffic laws.
The new regulations would trim back existing rules that require municipalities to approve vehicle testing.
Currently, 285 self-driving cars are being tested on California roadways by 42 permit holders, a lot of them auto manufacturers or technology companies, according to the DMV.
The regulator's suggested changes to the Golden State's red tape, published Wednesday, would grease the wheels for testing next-gen self-driving rides, a move that will be welcomed by techies in Silicon Valley and beyond.
The Senate version of the proposed law would not allow large driverless trucks. The new regulations should be in force sometime next year, although it may take a while after for companies to build out fully autonomous cars that comply with the new regulations.