The day when autonomous vehicles (AVs) will be traversing city streets is inching closer as auto-tycoons and tech companies are working towards developing AV technology. AV testing, however, is not as easy as developing it, since legislation allowing developers to test it is often tricky. Last week, the state of California announced that it was laying down legislation that will enable companies to begin testing autonomous vehicles on its roads as soon as April 2nd, 2018.
The decision came from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on February 26th after a number of bills related to AV testing that were drafted in early 2017 were approved by lawmakers. The bills explicitly addressed safety standards, establishing a framework for AV testing without a driver, and identifying requirements for manufacturers to be able to sell the vehicles.
What the approval of the bills means for AV operations is that, once the vehicles are allowed to hit roads, auto-tycoons and tech companies will be able to deploy vehicles without a “natural person” on board. AVs, however, will be required to be manned by a remote operator that can override the vehicle or communicate with passengers on board. For the time being, AVs are required to have a human driver on board during testing in case of vehicle malfunction.
Concerns over what could possibly go wrong with the remote controlled vehicles are stopping legislators from giving AVs a carte blanche to take to roads at the start of April. These concerns include how autonomous vehicles should collaborate with law enforcement should a vehicle get pulled over. AVs will also be required to carry a data-recording device similar to black boxes located onboard aircrafts so as to aid investigations in should an accident occur.
Dozens of tech and automobile tycoons have been working on developing autonomous vehicles in recent years. Starting with TEAGUE’s “The Hannah” and Google’s Waymo, tech companies like Uber, Apple, and Alphabet are also working to test their autonomous vehicles. Auto tycoons like Ford and Toyota from other states are using California as testing grounds for their AVs.
California joins a number of other states that have are enabling the testing of autonomous vehicles on their streets. Last June, the governor of Nevada signed off on the legislation needed to allow research for autonomous vehicles in the state. Near the U.S.’ eastern coast, a testing ground for AVs near Willow Run in Detroit opened last December, adding Michigan to the list of states hosting AV testing in the United States.
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