Self-driving cars get go-ahead to test on some California roads

September 30, 2016

Self-driving cars, or fully autonomous vehicles that don't require human attention or have a steering wheel or brake or gas pedals, will be allowed to test on a small number of California roads, The Mercury News reported Thursday.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law Thursday that would allow tech companies such as Google and Apple test their technologies on roads at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station, an area that local officials have been aiming to develop into neighborhoods and a center for self-driving car testing.

In October 2014, Mercedes-Benz and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority announced their plan to test self-driving cars at the facility, called the GoMentum Station. According to the Mercury News, automakers such as Honda and Otto are already using the site to test self-driving trucks. Apple and Google have reportedly expressed interest in testing cars at the site as well.

The bill also includes a provision for testing on public roads at a business park in San Ramon, California.

Self-driving cars testing under the new legislation would be limited to 35 mph or slower, and companies testing in the designated areas would be required to report to the state any crash in the cars within 10 days.

The law represents a significant, but small, step forward for self-driving cars to test on some public roads without driver interaction.

Earlier this month, head of Google's car development program, John Krafcik, asked the legislature in Michigan not to pass a bill that would limit autonomous vehicle testing in that state by tech companies, saying the measure would keep that state behind in self-driving technology.

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