California DMV changes rules to allow testing and use of fully autonomous vehicles

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is changing its rules to allow companies to test autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel — and to let the public use autonomous vehicles.

The DMV released a revised version of its regulations and has started a 15-day public comment period, ending October 25, 2017.

California law requires the DMV to work on regulations to cover testing and public use of autonomous vehicles, and the regulator said that this is the first step.

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

California’s DMV took pains in its announcement to highlight that it wasn’t trying to overstep the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has the final say on developing and enforcing compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Rather, the California regulations, are going to require manufacturers to certify that they’ve met federal safety standards before their cars become (driverlessly) street legal.

And manufacturers still have to obey the state traffic laws written for California.

The revised regulations are the result of feedback from automakers, consumer advocates, local governments and insurance companies, the DMV said in a statement. It had previously released regulations on March 10, and this update incorporates the feedback from those various stakeholders into the current version of the rules.

Specific changes include, specifying local notifications on planned driverless testing, developing a template for how to report when a driver has disengaged autonomous modes, and identifying concerns that “would trigger an amended driverless testing or deployment applications to the DMV.”

California has had rules in place for driverless vehicles since 2014. As of now, 42 companies hold permits to test autonomous vehicles on California roads, the DMV said.

Written comments can be submitted to¬† until October 25, 2017. Current regulations are availble on the California website under the “trending” section at the DMV homepage.

With the new revised regulations, California drives a bit farther down the road for autonomous vehicle testing, but it’s not alone. Singapore has already established zones for autonomous vehicle testing, and other nations are pushing to assume the pole position in the autonomous vehicle race.

Meanwhile, car companies are going to great lengths to see how well drivers can adjust to autonomous, driverless cars on the road. Witness Ford’s epic pranking of everyone by dressing up a driver as a car seat.