California DMV has new regulations for self-driving car companies

Self-driving car programs have been under close scrutiny as of late. That is due in part to a fatal accident involving one of Uber’s self-driving cars in Tempe, Arizona, as well as a fatal crash involving one of Tesla’s Model X vehicles, which had its semi-autonomous Autopilot system engaged. Today, the California Department of Motor Vehicles adopted new regulations pertaining to autonomous vehicles.

“State law requires the California DMV to develop regulations for the safe testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads,” a DMV spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “With the adoption of regulations effective April 2, 2018, the DMV has the authority to issue permits for driverless testing or deployment of autonomous vehicles. When an application is received, it will be thoroughly reviewed. The Department will not approve any permits until it is clear that the applicant has met all of the safe operation requirements set forth in law and in the regulations.”

What’s new is that the DMV now has three autonomous vehicle permit options: testing with a driver, driverless testing and deployment. Most of the new elements of the regulations are around driverless testing and deployment.

For example, in order to conduct driverless testing, companies must have previously tested the vehicles in controlled conditions. The vehicles must also, among many other things, meet the definition of an SAE Level 4 or 5 vehicle. With deployment, companies need to ensure cars can detect and respond to roadway situations, meet best practices to detect cyberattacks and more.

What many people have their eyes on pertain to operating autonomous vehicles without a safety driver, as well as deploying self-driving cars for public use. To date, no company has applied for a deployment permit and just one company has applied for a permit to test fully autonomous cars, the DMV spokesperson told TechCrunch. The DMV has 10 days to let the applicant know if it’s complete.

“If it is deemed complete the application will be thoroughly reviewed,” the spokesperson told TechCrunch. “There is not a timeline on when the DMV approves a permit after receiving a complete application.”

The DMV did not disclose which company applied for driverless testing, but it’s definitely not Uber. Last week, Uber decided not to re-apply for its self-driving car permit in California, which expired on March 31.