On Tuesday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) officially approved rules to allow the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads. The rules will take effect September 16, 2014.
The move has been a long time coming, with the DMV promising back in December 2013 that it would post regulations for public use of self-driving cars and then holding a public hearing in January to address concerns about them. These new rules will set a statewide standard for all manufacturers. (Although Google has been running pilot programs in Mountain View and elsewhere, it’s not the only company pursuing an automated vehicle—Nvidia told Ars last week that Audi has plans to incorporate a “cruise control for stop-and-go traffic” feature in one of its cars come 2015.)
Bryant Walker Smith, a fellow at the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS), told Ars that the new rules could change how manufacturers proceed with their testing. “The DMV has a really, really difficult task, and I was impressed with the thoughtfulness of their approach,” he said. “I would say that anyone who is reading these documents will have to read very closely.”
According to the adopted regulatory text that the California DMV posted on Tuesday, a manufacturer which wants to test autonomous vehicles has to apply for a testing permit, certify its drivers to test the cars, and secure a $5 million insurance or safety bond. The testing permit must be renewed after one year or else it expires.