California has taken a major step forward toward self-driving cars. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has introduced new rules to allow companies like Uber and Google to test fully-autonomous vehicles that share little resemblance to conventional automobiles.
Under the rules, manufacturers may test their vehicles on a closed track and California roads without drivers, and without some critical components you would expect to see in a roadworthy car.
What are these cars missing? — things like steering wheels, brake pedals, accelerators, and … obviously, humans!
Previous to these new rules, autonomous vehicles had to have a human driver sitting in the driver’s seat with their hands on the wheel.
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Now, manufacturers can submit an application and prove that they can remotely control their car in the event something goes wrong. The rules also require all plans for testing be submitted to local law enforcement.
According to Jack Stewart, a writer at Wired, California has good reason to push for autonomous vehicles: “[S]ome 3,000 people die on its roads every year, and self-driving cars could eliminate the human error that causes 90 percent of crashes. They could make more people more mobile, reduce emissions (maybe), and boost the economy.”
The public will have until Apr. 24 to comment on the new rules, published Friday. Unless there is material pushback, the relaxed regulations will go into effect in 2018.
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