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California May Soon See Companies Testing Self-Driving Cars Without A Steering

The largest U.S. car market, California may soon allow the testing of self-driving cars to take place on public roads.

The self-driving cars are being developed by a number of companies simultaneously, which looks to not only manufacture but also sell these vehicles to the general populace.

This announcement by state authorities in California may pave the way for the final push that this technology needs.

What The DMV Has Decided

The state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is seeking public opinion on its new proposal of testing driver-less cars, along with the use of autonomous vehicles for the purpose of public use, which will not require any standard manual controls such as pedals or even steering wheels.

The new regulation proposals were published on Friday, March 10, while April 24 is the deadline for the public to give their opinion about the proposed changes. The new rules if passed will come into effect 2018 onwards.

The state has given permits to 27 companies to conduct the test of driver-less cars on public roads which includes vehicle manufacturers such as BMW and Tesla; technology companies such as Alphabet Inc's Waymo and China's Baidu Inc.; suppliers such as Nvidia Corp and Delphi Automotive Plc; and a large number of autonomous startups such as Zoox, Drive.ai.

However, the DMV made an argument that the new proposal hasn't changed its perception about self-driving cars. As long as these autonomous cars are adaptable with government safety rules and getting operated in a way to obey the traffic laws of California, then they are considered for the testing process.

"I don't want to say we're comfortable. We believe we're requiring certification from the manufacturers that they're ready and that the vehicles themselves are able to operate without causing some harm," said Brian Soublet, chief counsel at the California DMV, in a conference call with reporters on March 10.

Previous Rules vs New Rules

Before this proposal, it was necessary for the autonomous cars to have the steering wheel for manual control, as well as a backup driver sitting inside who could take charge at any moment if things went wrong.

However, with this proposal, car manufacturers just have to ensure that they meet federal safety standards or obtain an exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

California is the fourth state which may allow the testing of self-driving cars on the public roads. Other states such as Florida and Michigan allow these vehicles to be tested on their roads with certain restrictions in place.

Michigan also allows testing of the autonomous cars and has placed almost no restrictions on them. State officials in California were criticized by many companies prior to this proposal for its restriction to testing these vehicles on its roads. However, that may change soon. 

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