California Ready to Remove Human Drivers from Self-Driving Cars

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California is a particularly friendly state for companies testing self-driving car technology. There are, however, rules that must be followed in the interest of keeping the public safe. These rules include testing only cars that having a steering wheel, pedals, and a human driver sitting behind that wheel ready to take over if something goes wrong. Newly proposed regulations may relax those rules and finally let cars without drivers on California roads.

Back when Google first debuted their adorable self-driving cars, they had no steering wheels or pedals. California made them add these parts and a human driver before they let them test. The state simply wasn’t comfortable with the idea of companies testing cars on public streets without any kind of backup plan should it all go wrong.

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Self-driving cars have come a long way over the years with extensive testing my numerous companies. Despite a few fender benders, things have gone pretty well. Other states have jumped at the chance to have self-driving car companies testing on their roads, which could draw business away from the Golden State. Michigan is at the top of the list with recently proposed legislation removing the ban on unmanned self-driving cars from their streets.

Not one to be left out of a technology rush, a new California Department of Motor Vehicles proposal calls for allowing self-driving cars without human drivers, a steering wheel, or foot pedals for taking control in an emergency. This doesn’t mean there won’t still be strict regulations governing exactly how these cars are tested.

First, they have to prove the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has approved their systems This follows along with NHTSA statements made early last year when it said that artificial intelligence could be counted as the driver to comply with federal regulations.

California’s proposed changes to self-driving car regulations are something that have to happen for the technology to progress. Human drivers with controls made sense early on when no one really knew how well these cars would work in the real world. There was a genuine fear that it would all go wrong and an out of control self-driving car could hurt someone.

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Testing proved otherwise leaving lawmakers in the unenviable position of holding back new technologies that could improve mobility for those unable to drive and improve safety by reducing human error. Changing the law shows Michigan and California are ready to move forward and take us one step closer to the days of self-driving cars as the norm instead of an oddity.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin