California will allow fully driverless vehicles to test on public roads

The California DMV has begun issuing permits to allow companies that meet specific requirements to test their vehicles on public roads without human safety drivers.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt

The state of California announced today that it would begin accepting applications for fully driverless vehicles to start testing on public roads. This differs from previous tests that were allowed (with a permit) so long as there was a human safety driver at the wheel.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has outlined the requirements necessary to secure a driverless permit, and these include proper security to resist cyber attacks, two-way communications equipment, and that the vehicle must not be able to be operated autonomously outside of certain designated areas and conditions. The full text of the regulations can be found here.

Waymo Jaguar I-Pace
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Waymo Jaguar I-Pace

Californians can expect to see driverless cars testing on their roads in the near future thanks to new testing permits issued by the DMV.


This is a bold move for California, particularly after the recent fatal incident in Arizona involving a pedestrian and a self-driving SUV owned by Uber. However, it seems as though California is intent on carefully regulating these permits and has reserved the right to immediately suspend or revoke a driverless testing permit if it finds evidence of unsafe practices by companies.

Based on the requirements set forth, these permits would allow testing of Level 4 autonomous vehicles as outlined in the SAE guidelines, particularly the guideline stating that it can only operate autonomously inside a certain area.

Companies like Waymo are currently testing Level 4-capable vehicles. It will be interesting to see how their tech fares without a human there to intervene.