Driverless cars without humans behind the wheel could hit California streets soon. (File photo: Jessica Christian/2016 S.F. Examiner)

Driverless cars may be allowed on California streets without humans next year

Driverless cars without human drivers could hit the streets of California as early as 2018, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

On Wednesday, the California DMV unveiled its revised proposed regulations that roll out the red carpet for driverless car testing and public use of those vehicles. A public comment period will run through Oct. 25.

The regulations don’t just apply to Uber — 42 companies hold permits to test autonomous vehicles in California, many of which have tested in San Francisco.

The new rules would allow autonomous vehicles to operate without a steering wheel, brake pedal and accelerator pedal as long as that vehicle applies with “all applicable” Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, maintains a link with a “remote operator,” and maintains the ability to communicate vehicle owner and operator information should the vehicle be in a crash.

Following the public comment period, the rules would be employed in regulations that take effect sometime in 2018.

“The department looks forward to seeing those companies and additional companies advance the technology under these new regulations,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said in a statement. “Today’s action continues the department’s efforts to complete these regulations by the end of the year.”

Some believe the new proposed regulations would put the public in danger. Consumer Watchdog, a Southern California-based advocacy group, said the changes are based on “nonexistent” federal safety standards.

“The new California DMV proposal wrongly relies on the federal government, when there are absolutely no Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards applying specifically to autonomous vehicle technology,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director.

“Instead of providing safety rules of the road,” he added, “the Trump Administration can’t even be bothered with nominating the chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

Written comments may be submitted to LADRegulations@dmv.ca.gov until Oct. 25. The proposed autonomous vehicle driverless testing and deployment regulations are available at https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/autonomous/auto.

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