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California Paves the Way for Cars With Empty Driver's Seats

Proposed regulations would let companies test self-driving cars on public roads without a human driver present.

This story originally appeared on PCMag

Officials in  proposed new rules on Friday that would let companies test on public roads with no human driver present.

Mark Wilson | Getty Images

The proposal is a significant update to the state's self-driving car regulations adopted in 2014, which allow testing on public roads only if a driver is inside the . With the new rules, companies that want to test cars without human drivers will have to apply for a special permit and meet federal standards defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To be approved for the permit, companies will also have to obtain written support from the jurisdiction that they want to test in, which suggests that local governments could object to testing on their streets.

According to the California Department of Motor , 21 companies are currently testing autonomous vehicles in the state. Among them are tech companies such as , which took over 's self-driving project last year, as well as traditional automakers such as and .

"California has more manufacturers testing autonomous vehicles than any other state and today's rules continue our leadership with this emerging ," California Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly said in a statement. The state's updated regulations will now enter a 45-day public comment period before they are adopted.

Although California is a hotbed of autonomous vehicle research, it is not the only state that is working on regulations to govern the industry. In December, Michigan adopted new laws that establish comprehensive self-driving car regulations and made it the first state to allow completely autonomous ride-sharing fleets.


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