Rules that govern tests of driverless cars and the public use of autonomous vehicles were approved by the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday. Beginning April 2nd, the DMV will begin issuing permits to manufacturers, paving the way for the autonomous vehicles to hit the roads.
Jessica Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the DMV, said the rules are a major step forward in bringing autonomous cars to the state.
"It's really moving the technology forward for the testing in California. So we're really excited to see and begin working with manufacturers to see who is ready to do driverless testing in the state," Gonzalez said. "We'll find out if anyone's ready to apply for a deployment permit, which would be the public use of self-driving cars."
At least 50 companies have been given a license to test their self-driving vehicle in the state.
The new rules give the green light to car manufacturers to begin testing driverless cars on public roads without a safety driver behind the wheel. Companies will be required to be able to remotely operate the vehicles as well as be able to communicate effectively with law enforcement in case there's some kind of incident or accident.
So how will car makers prove their autonomous cars are safe? Gonzalez says the new regulations in place are pretty strict and outline exactly how the manufacturers can prove they're worthy to receive a permit.
"One of the things they would have to do is certify with local authorities where those vehicles are being tested. They're also going to have to have a communication link between the vehicle and a remote operator. They're also going to have to have a process to communicate with law enforcement. So they have to have a plan for how law enforcement will interact with a self-driving car."
The most important concern about driverless cars for the DMV? Safety.
"We need to ensure that these vehicles are going to be safe to be driving around on our roads with other vehicles, interacting with pedestrians, and cyclists. And that's why we've been taking these steps, to have a number of workshops, a number of public hearings and also putting a number of requirements in place."
So will the roads of California be overrun with mindless vehicles taking passengers to their destinations? Will they make traffic worse, or better? Experts say the autonomous vehicles have a huge advantage over their human counterparts because they don't get tired and computers can analyse the flow of traffic to find better routes to your destination.
Companies like Uber and Waymo have already begun testing self-driving cars in Arizona, albeit with a safety driver behind the wheel.
So come April 2nd, if you see a car driving down the road without a driver, don't worry, it's not an extension of April Fools Day, it's just progress making its way down the 405.