Self-driving cars need no driver capability in California
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Self-driving cars need no driver capability in California

The trend towards automated vehicles received a major win in California last Friday, when the state relaxed a number of requirements concerning just how driverless driverless cars can really be. According to the Department of Motor Vehicle’s (DMV) newly proposed regulations, there is no longer any need for a human driver to be present during test runs on public roads. This is a reversal of earlier suggestions that should see California retain its status as premier testing ground for the nascent technology. It’s also great news for California native Alphabet.

The company formerly known as Google is a leading driver of the driverless phenomenon through its Waymo division. It was reportedly “gravely disappointed” when, in late 2015, the DMV’s draft regulations included a requirement for human drivers with all that entails: steering wheels, pedals, and more.

California DMV chief counsel Brian Soublet spoke to reporters on a conference call, saying:

“When we think of driverless vehicles they can either have conventional controls, which are steering wheels, pedals, things like that, or they cannot.”

This strongly suggests that, under the new regulations, automated software can be regarded as a “driver”. The knock-on effect of such a regulation would be the streamlining of automated car design and a larger market of potential customers: gone before they even appeared, it seems, are the days when you needed a drivers’ license to own a driverless car.

Eric Noble, president of The CarLab, an automotive consulting firm, said:

“If California was going to keep that level of development activity in the state, what they did was necessary and timely. They kind of had to do it because at some point manufacturers can’t move autonomous vehicles forward without getting controls out of cars.”

California is following Michigan’s lead in adopting driverless driverless cars, and the 45-day public comment period ends April 24. That will be followed by a public hearing, and the DMV says that the new rules should be finished by the end of the year.

Dominion holds Alphabet – as well as a number of other companies involved in the trend towards automated vehicles – in its Global Trends Managed Fund.

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