In April this year, several car-manufacturers urged the state of California to ease its proposed regulations for autonomous vehicles. After several months of debating, California has finally decided to ease off the regulations on self-driving to travel the state's highways without human drivers for the first time as early as 2018. The California rules could still conflict with proposed federal legislation that would largely bar states from regulating autonomous vehicles. But they are a boost for automakers who want to be able to deploy vehicles without human controls in California.
More than 40 companies are testing self-driving vehicles in California with human controls, and most automakers have autonomous research centers in the state, which is the largest U.S. auto market. The new rules are expected to take effect by June 2018, the state said.
Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent company Alphabet Inc, Ford Motor Co, Tesla Inc, Apple Inc, General Motors Co had sought changes in California.
Previous rules had demanded that firms submit safety assessment reports to state regulators and seek new approval for updated vehicles. Existing rules also require a backup human driver to be in all driverless vehicles. But the Association of Global Automakers, a trade group representing mostly Asian and European automakers, said California did not go far enough. Companies would still need a California permit to test or deploy vehicles on state roads.
California would also require automakers and tech firms to record information about autonomous sensors in the 30 seconds before a collision. Vehicles must follow all state laws except when necessary for the safety of the vehicle's occupants or other road users.
Consumer Watchdog criticized the revisions, saying California should stick to its earlier, stricter state requirements. The group noted local communities could not block testing under the proposal.
Last week, a Senate panel approved a bill aimed at speeding the use of self-driving cars without human controls in the United States, a measure that also bars states from imposing regulatory road blocks.