15 March, 2017
California is set to open its roads up for the first time to self-driving vehicles with no human drivers.
The Department of Motor Vehicles announced plans to allow testing on state roads later this year of truly driverless cars.
Until now, California has only allowed testing of autonomous vehicles with a driver ready to take over if something goes wrong.
The proposed change would allow testing of vehicles with no steering wheel or pedal controls. However, any driverless vehicle being tested must be remotely controllable and able to stop itself in an emergency.
A hearing will be held next month to get public comments on the issue before the change can take effect. Officials say they hope the new rules can receive final approval by December.
The proposed rules open the path for self-driving cars to be widely sold and used throughout the state, officials said. Truly driverless vehicles could be available for sale in California as early as 2018.
The cars must also meet all federal safety requirements to be allowed on California roads.
The U.S. government released its own set of guidelines for driverless vehicles last September. Officials said the guidelines were intended to bring about a "responsible introduction" of autonomous technology in a "safe, clean, efficient" way.
California is the largest automobile market in the United States. Currently, 27 companies have permission to test autonomous vehicles on the state's public roads. These include major U.S. and foreign carmakers, as well as technology companies like Google and Uber.
Ride-sharing company Uber was forced to pull its test cars out of California last December after a dispute with officials over required permits. Uber had argued it did not need state permits for testing because its vehicles were not "fully autonomous."
But last week, Uber finally gave in to state officials and got the required permit to test its self-driving cars in California.
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press and Reuters. Hai Do was the editor.
How do you feel about the testing of driverless cars on public roads? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit 51VOA.COM.
Words in This Story
autonomous – adj. existing separately from other things
steering wheel – n. wheel the driver uses to control the direction of a vehicle
pedal – n. control on a piece of equipment that is pushed with a foot
efficient – adj. capable of working well and producing good results