Empty Cars on the Roads

The California DMV is moving toward allowing self-driving cars on the road with no safety driver.

Removing the safety driver is one of the next big steps forward for self-driving cars, along with:

  • Testing the cars in more cities, especially internationally
  • Expanding the geofences around existing test locations
  • Opening up more of the tests to the public

Here are a few steps that seem likely to happen next, although the timeframe is not obvious:

  1. It’s safe to assume that the first versions of this test will happen on private test tracks (or maybe they already are happening — the regulations on how to operate self-driving cars on private land vary wildly from state to state).
  2. The next step will probably be to operate self-driving cars on public roads, with no humans in them. Possibly with a trailing vehicle carrying test engineers who can remotely seize control of the driverless car in an emergency. That will be quite a site.
  3. Presumably only after companies are super-confident about the ability of cars to operate with no humans inside will these cars be opened up for public ridership.

It’s still a ways to go, but each little step is exciting.

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