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California to allow self-driving cars on road without human backup by April

By
Ray Downs
A vehicle from Google's Waymo line of self-driving unit drives down the road. On Monday, California announced it will allow self-driving vehicles on the road without a human backup driver. File Photo courtesy of Waymo
A vehicle from Google's Waymo line of self-driving unit drives down the road. On Monday, California announced it will allow self-driving vehicles on the road without a human backup driver. File Photo courtesy of Waymo

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- California will allow testing of self-driving vehicles on the road without a human backup driver by April 2, state officials announced Monday.

"This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California," California Department of Motor Vehicles Director Jean Shiomoto said , according to the Mercury News. "Safety is our top concern and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California."

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Self-driving vehicles have been allowed on California roads since 2014 as long as a human driver was able to take the wheel. But the emerging technology is still technically in the testing phase and while Monday's announcement does away with the human requirement inside the vehicle, California will still require that a remote human operator monitoring the vehicle, Recode reported.

John M. Simpson, a director for Consumer Watchdog, told The New York Times that highway safety could be threatened when remote operators try "to control the robot car from afar" like in a video game "except lives will be at stake."

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In addition to setting up a system so the vehicles can communicate with a remote human operator, companies must also have vehicles able to detect and defend against cyberattacks.

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Companies wishing to utilize the new rules in their self-driving vehicles must apply for a permit. Today, about 50 companies currently test self-driving vehicles with a human.

California isn't the first state in the country to allow self-driving vehicles on the road without a human inside.

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Google's parent company, Alphabet, has been testing its self-driving vehicles without humans present since October.

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