California DMV sets out proposed rules for testing truly ‘driverless’ cars

California state capitol in Sacramento

In a significant step towards the testing of fully driverless vehicles on the roads, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has released proposed regulations to establish a path for the testing and future deployment of fully autonomous vehicles without a human driver.

Regulations to test autonomous vehicles with a driver have been in place in the state since September 2014, and 27 manufacturers now hold autonomous vehicle test permits.

These rules expand our existing autonomous vehicle testing program to include testing vehicles where no driver is present. This is the next step in eventually allowing driverless autonomous vehicles on California roadways.
— California DMV Director Jean Shiomoto

Announcing the release of the proposed regulations, California Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly said: “California has more manufacturers testing autonomous vehicles than any other state and today’s rules continue our leadership with this emerging technology.

“These rules protect public safety, promote innovation and lay out the path for future testing and deployment of driverless technology. This rulemaking is the next step in working with stakeholders to get this right.”



The DMV said that it had received “substantial feedback” after it shared revised draft regulations for testing without a driver and the deployment of autonomous vehicles in September.

Following this feedback from manufacturers, consumer groups, local government, insurance companies and other stakeholders, the department said that the proposed regulations would address public safety concerns while “recognizing the potential of autonomous technology to improve safety, enhance mobility and encourage innovation”.

DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said: “These rules expand our existing autonomous vehicle testing program to include testing vehicles where no driver is present.

“This is the next step in eventually allowing driverless autonomous vehicles on California roadways.”

Setting out the proposed regulations, the DMV said that they:

  • Recognise that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is vested with the authority to develop Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and enforce compliance with safety and performance standards for motor vehicles. DMV is requiring certification to meet these federal safety standards.
  • Establish a framework for testing without a driver.
  • Identify requirements that a manufacturer must meet in order to sell, lease, or otherwise make their vehicle available outside of a testing programme.
  • Address other key topics related to autonomous vehicle deployment, including driver licensing and responsibility, vehicle registration and the advertising of autonomous vehicles.

The proposed regulations are open for public comments until 24 April.

The DMV will then hold a public hearing in Sacramento before finalising and seeking approval for the regulations. It anticipates that this process will be complete by the end of the year.