California was one of the first states to allow autonomous vehicles (self-driving cars) to be tested on public roads. On April 2, 2018, the state began allowing self-driving cars without a driver in the vehicle to be tested on public roads. Before these new regulations, California only allowed autonomous vehicles to be tested on public roads with an approved driver.

In order to test an autonomous vehicle without a driver in California, the manufacturer must meet certain requirements, including the following:

  • Provide local authorities with written notification that self-driving cars without a driver in the vehicle will be tested in their jurisdiction, together with certain details about the testing
  • Certify that the test vehicle complies with certain requirements, including a communication link between the vehicle and remote operator, two-way communication with passengers, a process to communicate between the vehicle and law enforcement, and an explanation of how the manufacturer will monitor test vehicles
  • Submit a copy of a law enforcement interaction plan to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
  • Certify the test vehicle meets all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) or provide evidence of an exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Certify the autonomous test vehicle can operate without a driver in the vehicle and meets the autonomous technology description of a Level 4 or Level 5 under the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) definitions
  • Inform the DMV of the intended operational design domains
  • Maintain a training program for remote operations and certify each operator has completed training
  • Inform passengers of personal information being collected and how it will be used, and anonymize any information not necessary for safe operation of the vehicle
  • Submit an annual disengagement report and submit collision reports to the DMV within 10 days

These regulations do not cover testing and deployment of autonomous motorcycles, trailers, trucks, and other commercial vehicles.