Don’t be alarmed if the car beside you has no driver inside

Driverless cars can now operate in California beginning in April as part of new regulations passed by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. The new regulations make it possible for automakers developing autonomous driving technology to test or operate self-driving cars in the state without the presence of a safety driver behind the wheel. But, that doesn’t mean a driver isn’t involved. Keep reading to find out how.

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The new rule imposed by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is a big and progressive step for automakers and tech companies to start commercializing the use of self-driving cars

The new rule imposed by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is a big and progressive step for automakers and tech companies to start commercializing the use of self-driving cars. This is one of the end games that a lot of companies have identified as part of their plans in rolling out autonomous driving vehicles. Now that the state is allowing self-driving cars to take the road without a driver inside, it adds a very important task for companies that are developing the technology, specifically the tasks that involve someone remotely communicating with the vehicles, communicating with passengers, and taking control of the cars, if necessary.

Automakers who are now free to conduct testing with this kind of setup will still need to follow a few requirements, one of which is the need of a remote operator who can continuously supervise the car’s operation.

In the words of the DMV, a remote operator is a “natural person who: possesses the proper class of license for the type of test vehicle being operated; is not seated in the driver’s seat of the vehicle; engages and monitors the autonomous vehicle; is able to communicate with occupants in the vehicle through a communication link. A remote operator may also have the ability to perform the dynamic driving task for the vehicle or cause the vehicle to achieve a minimal risk condition.”

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A remote operator is essentially an overseer of self-driving cars. One of his main jobs is to monitor the self-driving car from an outside location, ready to take over as needed

A remote operator is essentially an overseer of self-driving cars. One of his main jobs is to monitor the self-driving car from an outside location, ready to take over as needed. In addition, he or she must be able to communicate with passengers in the event of an accident, as well as law enforcement officials.

It’s an important function in the development of self-driving technology because companies can now roll out their test vehicles without any test drivers or engineers inside the cars. Once the technology is developed to the point that it can be deployed and commercialized, remote operators will be tasked to fulfill the functions dictated by the DMV’s rules.

The new rules come at a time when just about every major automaker — and a slew of high-profile tech companies — has made advancements in the development of the technology. Soon enough, we could very well see self-driving cars on the road that don’t have a driver in the front seat.

That “future” needs to start somewhere, though. In the case of California, the future has arrived.

References

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