California DMV regs pave the way for public self-driving cars

The DMV revised its regulations that stand between developers and public use of self-driving vehicles.

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According to the latest federal guidelines for self-driving cars, it's still up to the states to take care of matters like registration. Most states haven't addressed their responsibilities yet, but California isn't about to show up late to the party.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) unveiled on Wednesday a revised set of regulations that will bridge the gap between testing self-driving cars and allowing the public to use them. The revised regulations will be open for public comments for the next 15 days.

Regulations involving testing have been on California's books since 2014, when Google (now spun out as Waymo) and others started reaching the point where the next-gen tech could feasibly be tested on roads. As of this writing, 42 different companies have been approved for permits to test autonomous vehicles on Californian public roads, and that number is likely to grow as the tech grows closer to production.

The regulations leave matters like vehicle safety to the federal government. In order to get a vehicle approved for public use in California, developers must prove the vehicles comply with both federal standards and state traffic laws.

In addition, companies must prove the vehicles can only operate autonomously in places it was designed to, and they must furnish the DMV with all sorts of information about how the vehicles react to various issues that may or may not be programmed into the car's computers. Companies that operate outside the spirit of the regulations can have their licenses suspended or revoked.

You might notice that there's a whole lot of text removed from the new version, given all the text with strikethroughs. Feedback on the previous version of the DMV regulations came from manufacturers, the state government, insurance companies and consumer advocates. The regulations were also adapted to fit the latest guidelines from the federal government.

We might still be years away from the wild self-driving utopia some people envision, but it's good to see California taking steps to ensure that, when self-driving cars are ready for public consumption, the Golden State will be among the first to embrace them.

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