California is going to start letting self-driving cars be tested without onboard safety drivers

The US state of California has just announced it will start allowing self-driving cars to be tested on its roads without a trained safety driver inside the vehicle.

At the moment, driverless cars can only be trialled with a trained driver in the front seat ready to take over if something goes wrong.

But from April 2, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will start issuing permits to companies for driver-free testing on California’s roads.

There will still be safety features though – the car must be hooked up to an operator who can take over remotely.

The car’s tech will also have to be hardened against hacks, and in the event of an accident, will need to record relevant data to be provided in case there’s an accident.

DMV director Jean Shiomoto said: “Safety is our top concern and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California.”

At the moment, 50 companies have permits to test autonomous vehicles with a driver in the state.

Firms such as Uber, Google’s Waymo, and Tesla are expected to start testing their self-driving vehicles with no-one on board.

But the DMV has only put the new rules in place for automated passenger vehicles, not trucks, and is still considering rules for those larger vehicles.

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