Days to Comment on DMV Rules for Autonomous Cars

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Legislation intended to clear away federal regulations that could impede a new era of self-driving cars has moved quickly through Congress. The House has passed a bill that would permit automakers to seek exemptions to safety regulations, such as to make cars without a steering wheel, so they could sell hundreds of thousands of self-driving cars.

The proposals build upon changes put forward in March by the DMV, which is required by California law to open up the state to driverless robo-rides.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced new regulations that could see self-driving cars take the road as soon as next June, but critics of the regulations worry that the safety requirements still aren't quite all there.

The state introduced the new rules Wednesday, Oct. 11 in a news release introducing its revised regulations.

The new draft regulations add requirements for companies testing self-driving cars to notify local authorities about where and when the testing will occur, but impose no requirement to ask for permission, the DMV said in a conference call. Nearly 1,000 safety drivers are licensed to test those vehicles, but after the state's rules go into effect, companies would be allowed to deploy cars without any human behind the wheel.

California's change in tack comes as other states build momentum with looser regulations.

California requires a $5 million insurance plan, and that the company must report any crashes within 10 days in addition to an annual report detailing the company's test drivers' training.

State officials will take public comment on the proposed rules for the next two weeks.

Dozens of companies are busy testing their self-driving tech in the Sunshine State, which has regulations favorable to the fledgling industry. Companies need to perfect the technology before unleashing it for regular drivers, and that means more of the highway and road testing that began several years ago. Singapore has already established zones for autonomous vehicle testing, and other nations are pushing to assume the pole position in the autonomous vehicle race.

California is not alone in the field of opening driverless cars to the roads.

"Under the Trump administration approach, automakers can glance at the (federal) policy and say, 'That's nice, ' and then do whatever they want as they use our roads as private laboratories and threaten highway safety", Simpson said.

"A special permit is still required to deploy, creating regulatory uncertainty and raising concerns about the ability of autonomous vehicles to cross state lines", it said.

The delay reflects both the developing nature of the technology as well as how the federal government-which is responsible for regulating the safety of the vehicles-has struggled to write its own rules.