California To Start Licensing Self-Driving Cars

May 22, 2014 01:10 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Some California drivers will be traveling in autonomous cars starting Sept. 16 as the Golden State becomes one of the first to officially approve self-driving vehicles.

Releasing final regulations to test autonomous cars this week, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles has specified two qualifications for the vehicle testing: a $150 application fee and a $5 million insurance policy, Jalopnik reported.

"The State of California, which presently does not prohibit or specifically regulate the operation of autonomous vehicles, desires to encourage the current and future development, testing, and operation of autonomous vehicles on the public roads of the state," according to the state bill to approve the new autonomous vehicle regulations. 

The DMV will begin accepting applications in July. Companies who are approved for a self-driving vehicle license will be allowed to have 10 autonomous cars on the road with 20 designated drivers. Broader regulations for the general public should be adopted in January.

While Google and other developers have been testing self-driving vehicles around the country for some time, people still seem uneasy about the switch from a human driver to a computer. Besides the obvious apprehension that stems from letting go of the steering wheel, one concern is how the change will affect liability and insurance policies in case of accidents.

Another issue is the total lack of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations when it comes to self-driving cars.

"We're kind of in a bind because every vehicle that's on the roadway has to meet federal motor vehicle safety standards," Bernard Soriano, deputy director of the autonomous regulation project at the California DMV, told The Atlantic.

But no federal regulations are yet in place for this new technology.

"NITSA is the one who develops the regulations for safety devices on vehicles, but--they admit this--they are years away, years away, from developing regulations for autonomous vehicles," Soriano told The Atlantic.

Live Science pointed out that while California is among the first to address self-driving cars with regulations, the technology may already be legal in many states since few laws specifically prohibit autonomous vehicles.

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