California Begins Allowing Autonomous Vehicles Without Safety Drivers

California is home to Silicon Valley and autonomous driving firms such as Cruise Automation and Waymo but it appears none of the state’s high-tech companies bothered with applying for a permit to test fully-autonomous vehicles without a safety driver.

As noticed by Gizmodo, the Mercury News reports today was the first day that automakers and tech firms could operate a self-driving vehicle in California without a safety driver. However, this required companies to file an application with the California Department of Motor Vehicles but no one has.

According to a spokesperson who talked to the paper, “The DMV has the authority to begin issuing driverless testing and or deployment permits for autonomous vehicles on April 2. To date, no one has applied for either permit.” The spokesperson went on to say that if an application is eventually received, then it will be reviewed before a final determination is made.

While it is surprising to learn no companies have filed an application to test vehicles without a safety driver, it appears the issue could come down to timing. When Waymo was reached for comment, a spokesperson told the publication they would like to eventually test and deploy autonomous vehicles in California and they will “take the steps necessary to do so” in the future.

Uber’s Sarah Abboud declined to comment on developments in California as the company was “heads down” as it cooperates with the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which are investigating the fatal accident that claimed the life of Elaine Herzberg last month. Interestingly, Uber decided not to renew its current autonomous vehicle testing permit in the state and it lapsed over the weekend. As a result, the company will have to apply for a new permit if it wants to resume testing in California.

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  • Jay

    Stupid state.

  • Honda NSX-R

    Testing autonomous cars without a safety driver? That’s just dumb.

    • MultiKdizzle

      They will monitored remotely.

    • Andrew Riles

      Agreed….we’ve already seen avoidable accidents with autonomous cars because the tech failed and the ‘safety driver’ wasn’t paying attention, makes you wonder how many near misses there have been where the person behind the wheel intervened when the car got it wrong….

  • BlackPegasus

    Great news! Pushing the boundaries is how we perfect the technology.

  • Adilos Nave

    These tech/car companies are rushing into this far too fast. They are making everyone into their test subjects and risking lives. The technology will eventually get there but only in time. They need to be testing these in a closed and controlled environment, not out in the public where a simple glitch can kill.

  • brn

    I suspect there are a lot of requirements that must be met before you can test without a safety driver. Not meeting those requirements (yet) is likely why no automaker has yet applied for a permit.

  • wait a minute

    too much bad press just now, if they signed up without a safety driver. Wait a few months for the accident fade in peoples minds and i’m sure they’ll sign-up.

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