Driver-less cars get green signal from California regulators

California regulators have given have the green signal to driver-less cars. The Department of Motor Vehicles said yesterday that it will eliminate a requirement for autonomous vehicles to have a person in the driver's seat to take over in the event of an emergency. The new rule will take effect from 2 April.

The state had given 50 companies a license to test self-driving vehicles and the new rules also require companies to be able to operate the vehicle remotely and communicate with law enforcement and other drivers when something goes wrong.

According to commentators, the changes point to a step toward the wider deployment of autonomous vehicles. Among the economic benefits praised by proponents of driver-less vehicles is that they will not be limited by human boundaries and can do things like operate 24 hours in a row without a drop-off in alertness or attentiveness.

They point out that taking the human out of the front seat is an important psychological and logistical step before truly driverless cars can hit the road.

''This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California,'' said Jean Shiomoto, director of California's DMV in a statement. ''Safety is our top concern and we are ready to begin working with manufacturers that are prepared to test fully driverless vehicles in California.''

"This is a significant step towards an autonomous future in the state, and signals that California is interested in leading by example in the deployment of autonomous vehicles," said Sarah Abboud, an Uber spokesperson, in an email.

"With this effort complete, we look forward to working with California as it develops regulations applicable to autonomous trucks."

Uber is currently testing autonomous cars in Arizona, a state that does not regulate driver-less vehicles.