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In California, autonomous cars are about to start cruising without a safety driver

February 27, 2018

The state’s regulators will finally allow tech firms to test their robotic vehicles the way they’ve always wanted to. 

New rules: Starting April 2, reports the New York Times, autonomous cars in California will not need a safety driver behind the wheel. Operators will, however, need to be able to control the cars remotely and communicate with other people (like the police) if something goes wrong.

The cars are (kinda) ready: Waymo is already testing its cars without safety drivers in Phoenix, Arizona. And GM is building a modified, autonomous Chevrolet Bolt that doesn’t have a steering wheel for exactly these kinds of tests. Whether they’re ready ready is another question, of course.

Why it matters: Such tests should accelerate progress in autonomous cars. They’ll also get the public acclimated to the weirdness of the vehicles (without having humans dress as car seats) and enable firms to test the cars in the way they’ll actually be used commercially.

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