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California wants to allow self-driving car tests without human drivers

13 Octubre 2017

The revised regulations will allow testing of autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the steering wheel and public use of vehicles equipped with autonomous technology. "Today's action continues the department's efforts to complete these regulations by the end of the year".

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on Wednesday released a revised version of proposed regulations that establishes a path for testing and public use of driverless- that is, completely unmanned - vehicles.

"The new California DMV proposal wrongly relies on the federal government, when there are absolutely no federal motor vehicle safety standards applying specifically to autonomous vehicle technology", said the group's spokesman John Simpson.

California's change in tack comes as other states build momentum with looser regulations.

Congress is currently considering legislation that would allow companies to manufacture and deploy cars without traditional controls like pedals and steering wheels.

The group also supports a provision in the proposed rules that prohibits manufacturers from exaggerating their cars' self-driving capabilities in advertising and at the sales point.

Transportation4America called that a "giveaway to the auto industry" because it "strips states and local governments of the authority to manage the vehicles on their roadways and leaves them without the tools to deal with problems already arising during the testing and deployment of automated vehicles".

California's proposed rules must still undergo a 15-day public comment period, which could result in further changes, and then a protracted review by other state attorneys.

Though California has been a hub for autonomous vehicle development, companies such as Waymo and Uber have been operating self-driving ride-hailing pilots in Arizona and Pennsylvania, where regulations are less restrictive.

Before any company can be approved for testing their vehicles, said vehicles will have to undergo rigorous testing to ensure compliance with federal safety standards first.

The proposed federal rules also restrict local governments from passing or enforcing any laws that are an "unreasonable restriction on the design, construction, or performance" of an automated vehicle.

The new regulations are a marked change from the DMV's previous stance on autonomous vehicle testing. On top of that, they have to show that the cars know how to react to certain unexpected conditions.

"A special permit is still required to deploy, creating regulatory uncertainty and raising concerns about the ability of autonomous vehicles to cross state lines", it said.

Consumer Watchdog criticized the revisions, saying California should stick to its earlier, stricter state requirements.