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California publishes revised autonomous vehicle regulations, highlights federal authority

California publishes revised autonomous vehicle regulations, highlights federal authority

42 companies are testing 285 driverless vehicles with a license from the agency. California's new regulations state that it will follow the federal government's lead in that companies are required to certify themselves as road ready or not.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles will allow autonomous cars testing next year.

More than 40 companies are testing self-driving vehicles in California with human controls, and most automakers have autonomous research centers in the state, which is the largest U.S. auto market.

"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.

California's change in tack comes as other states build momentum with looser regulations.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra told Reuters on Tuesday that the federal legislation "allows us to get this technology on the road", but declined to say when the automaker might seek approval for exemptions. For now, existing federal safety standards for motor vehicles remain in place, regardless of whether a human is driving the car.

Traditional automakers and Silicon Valley upstarts are trying to teach cars to drive in different ways, but all agree cars which don't drink, text, fall asleep or drive erratically can save thousands of lives lost to crashes.

On road safety, NHTSA has responsibility for regulating safety in the design and performance of vehicles, while states regulate drivers and vehicle operations.

Before any company can be approved for testing their vehicles, said vehicles will have to undergo rigorous testing to ensure compliance with federal safety standards first.

The new regulations are a marked change from the DMV's previous stance on autonomous vehicle testing.

The revised regulations also clarify to which local authorities manufacturers must notify when they are planning to test autonomous vehicles without a human operator, which cites "local authorities" as defined by California Vehicle Code 385.

Wade Newton, a spokesman for trade group the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said Wednesday it appeared that California had recognized that "certain onerous" requirements could delay deployment of self-driving technology.

Consumer Watchdog criticized the revisions, saying California should stick to its earlier, stricter state requirements.Consumer Watchdog criticized the revisions, saying California should stick to its earlier, stricter state requirements. Major automakers like Mercedes, BMW, Ford, Nissan and Volvo have all said it will be closer to 2020 before those vehicles are available, and even then, they could be confined to ride-hailing fleets and other shared applications.