California has played a big role in the development of autonomous technologies. A host of companies have sought out permits to test their self-driving systems in the state, and up until now, it was exceedingly difficult to do so (just ask Uber). Now, the state government has eased regulations on the testing and trials of driverless cars, much to the pleasure of the auto industry.
We could see cars testing without humans behind the wheel as early as next year. According to The Los Angeles Times, the state has made the process much easier as testers no longer have to obtain permission from the officials of each area that they drive through. Instead, they can now just notify each locale of their plans, simplifying things for the 21 companies like Waymo and AutoX who have obtained the permit to test in California. Also, companies no longer have to set up a detailed emergency procedure with local authorities.
Additionally, the state is working to set up programs that make the sale of autonomous cars accessible. This is a significant step forward for California as just a few months ago they were among the strictest regulators. Previously, manufacturers had to have an outside-party certify their self-driving cars. Those rules have now been changed to allow automakers to certify their own vehicles, yet again cutting out the middle man.
This could influence companies to start testing in California once again. Testers like Uber have already fled to other states, such as Arizona, where there are no restrictions. Michigan is another state where the likes of GM have been experimenting, pulling business away from the Golden State.
Although California has lightened its rules, autonomous cars must still meet the standards of federal safety regulators. They will, of course, need to follow state traffic laws.
Citizens of California will soon be able to voice their opinion on the subject at a hearing on April 25. This will allow automakers the opportunity to see how their testing is viewed by the public eye, their potential demographic in the future.