Self-driving vehicles have become a buzzing technology topic over the last few years, and people are understandably concerned about the risks of these vehicles. With occasional crashes, even when there’s a driver watching the wheel, pedestrians and other drivers alike are cautious. However, California has taken a step to eliminate the chance of human error from these crashes by allowing unmanned, self-driving vehicles to operate. Recently, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing these self-driving vehicles to operate without human passenger supervision. Up until now, tests have required humans riding up front should the self-driving vehicle need assistance.
Considering that California is home to many successful startups it’s no surprise they’re willing to legalize these vehicles. While the bill does allow unmanned vehicles, companies can’t just go out and throw theirs on the road. The bill is directed to a pilot project run by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA). Currently, only EasyMile will be running its vehicles around a populated site, San Ramon’s Bishop Ranch. Additionally, the bill legalizes testing in a ‘ghost town’ in Concord where Honda ran their autonomous vehicles earlier this year.
Although the vehicles don’t need a driver, steering wheel, or brake pedal, more restrictions apply. The autonomous vehicles must run at speeds less than 35 miles per hour and provide proof of extensive testing prior to public operation. The CCTA must also display evidence of having $5,000,000 in insurance. Lastly, the project organizers must be able to track their vehicles remotely.
Major technology companies such as Google and Apple have also displayed interest in using the Concord ‘ghost town’ for testing. While some of these companies like Apple have come under criticism, this interest may spark relations with the pilot project.
Even though unmanned, autonomous vehicles provide encouraging options in regard to removing human error from your daily commute, there will be impacts in other areas. With thousands of citizens working as taxi and bus drivers, this technology might put them out of a job.