April 4, 2018—California's Department of Motor Vehicles issued regulations on Monday allowing companies to conduct tests of self-driving cars with the greatest degrees of automation, reported StateScoop.
The regulations clear the way for vehicles that meet the Society of Automotive Engineers’ automation levels 4 and 5, at which a car can operate without anyone in the driver’s seat.
A Level 4 car can make complete trips by itself, but still features a traditional driving set-up (steering wheel, gas and brake pedals) in case one of its occupants wants to take over. A Level 5 car removes that apparatus entirely, according to the report.
But nearly all autonomous vehicles being tested right now only make it to the SAE's Level 3, which require a human behind a steering wheel ready to take over in an instant. And before Monday, that's as far as California's regulations went. Now, though, the state is poised to make public roads available to truly driver-free cars.