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Driverless cars without humans approved for California

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A self-driving Uber vehicle is seen on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco’s Richmond District. (Jessica Christian/2017 S.F. Examiner)

It’s official: By April 2, truly driverless cars can begin rolling down the streets of San Francisco, without anyone behind the wheel.

Statewide regulations to permit and govern autonomous vehicle deployment — without a driver present — were approved by the California Office of Administrative Law on Monday afternoon.

The move to approve California DMV’s regulatory framework will allow deployment and also testing of autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel.

SEE RELATED: Uber buys 24,000 new self-driving cars, but not for SF

The regulations require a “communication link” be maintained between the testing vehicle and remote operators. The companies must also certify the vehicle is capable of operating without the presence of a driver and notify California Highway Patrol of a “law enforcement interaction plan” that will be available for first responders.

During deployment, those remote operators must monitor the status of the vehicle and be prepared to intercede “if the vehicle experiences any failures that would endanger the safety of the vehicle’s passengers or other road users” according to the permit application.

The regulations will not be enacted for 30 days, as the DMV must first post a public notice, but by April 2 companies could deploy such vehicles.

California DMV has issued 50 permits to test autonomous vehicles, with drivers, to companies including Uber, BMW, Ford, Subaru, Lyft, Apple inc., Toyota Research Institute and Waymo, among others, the Examiner previously reported.

However there is “no word if anyone will be ready” to apply for the new deployment permits for public use, Jessica Gonzalez, spokesperson for California DMV, previously told the San Francisco Examiner.

The approved autonomous vehicle regulations, which were drafted by the DMV and have been under review by the Office of Administrative Law since Jan. 11, require companies to notify local authorities if they plan to test vehicles in a city.

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