• California proposes giving more freedom to test self-driving cars

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Proposed draft regulations in California could soon impact how companies test their self-driving vehicles as well as how certain vehicle technology is marketed. California is among the handful of states that have passed regulations allowing self-driving vehicles to be tested on public roads. At this time, there are 15 companies allowed to test autonomous vehicles on public roads as long as there is a licensed driver in the vehicle. California’s interest in supporting autonomous vehicle development is fueled, in large part, by the large number of Silicon Valley-based technology companies.

The new regulations would allow companies to test their autonomous vehicles without a driver under certain circumstances as long as the vehicles allow for two-way communication. Carmakers, tech companies, and disability rights advocacy groups had criticized previous regulations that required a driver to be present in the vehicle stating that the requirement stifled innovation and hurt those that the technology was meant to benefit.

The new regulations would also require that the vehicles pass a 15-point safety assessment by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Carmakers will also be prohibited from referring to semi-autonomous features as self-driving or autonomous. This includes lane-assist and enhanced cruise control features that require interaction from a driver. These features have been a point of concern following a fatal accident earlier this year involving a driver using Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system. Consumer advocates have been critical of the company’s use of the term autopilot since it implies that it does not require driver interaction.

The new regulations must undergo a public comment period before they are finalized.

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