The California Department of Motor Vehicles may allow autonomous cars with remote human backup drivers to hit the public roads as early as April, Reuters reports, citing a statement from the agency’s spokeswoman Jessica Gonzalez. All self-driving vehicles that are currently being tested in the state have human drivers physically present in them as backups but allowing a single operator to remotely monitor multiple vehicles and take control of them if necessary should not only accelerate the process of testing such solutions but also drive down its cost per an autonomous unit. California’s legal compliance agency should approve the new ruleset allowing for such experiments on Monday, paving the way for the DMV to issue a public notice on the matter on March 1 and start accepting applicants interested in testing truly driverless vehicles over the following 30 days.
Should the situation develop in accordance with the estimated roadmap, the DMV may issue the first testing permits as early as April 2. Alphabet’s Waymo and Nissan are both likely to apply for having their driverless technologies approved for public testing as both companies have reportedly pursued such solutions for several years now. A number of startups such as Phantom Auto, Starsky Robotics, and Zoox have also been developing similar services and may benefit from the loosened regulations. Fully autonomous vehicles without human backup drivers still aren’t allowed to be tested on the public roads in the state. Uber is another major self-driving presence in California but it’s presently unclear whether the company already has a working vehicle remote control system of that kind, though it could always partner with another company in order to take advantage of the new regulations in a swift manner.
The development marks yet another major step toward the commercialization of self-driving vehicles, with Waymo recently having its automated ride-hailing platform approved in Arizona. Autonomous driving as a whole is still in its infancy as far as regulatory frameworks are concerned but the technology itself is advancing at a rapid pace, with most Silicon Valley giants predicting they’ll be able to commercialize it in a matter of years. Public acceptance of driverless solutions in the U.S. is still less than conducive to their swift popularization but that may change once more people have an opportunity to experience self-driving cars first-hand.