California regulators warm up to the idea of driverless cars sans steering wheel

Proposed rules that would allow for testing of truly driverless cars on roads in California are gaining steam in the state’s legislature.

Specifically, Assembly Bill 1592 in California was revised on Monday to soon allow:

“the testing of autonomous vehicles that do not have a driver seated in the driver’s seat and are not equipped with a steering wheel, a brake pedal, or an accelerator.”

Such pilot tests would be allowable only if other conditions were met. For example, self-driving vehicles couldn’t go faster than 35 miles per hour in pilot tests. And they would have to be operated within approved areas, i.e. “a privately owned business park designated by the authority, inclusive of public roads [there].”

Silicon Valley tech companies, including Tesla, Apple and Google, but also lidar makers Quanergy and Velodyne, are vying to become the next generation’s automotive leaders. And even gigantic automakers like Ford have set up innovation hubs in California.

A move by the state to make it easier for them to test what they’re building locally, and use their self-driving vehicles on local roads, could keep business around long term, rather than sending large employers, their R&D teams or manufacturing business overseas and to other states with a more favorable regulatory environment.

Other regions that have enacted laws governing the use or testing of self-driving vehicles on their roads include Nevada, Florida, Michigan, Hawaii, Washington, Washington, D.C. and Tennessee.