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Driverless cars go legal in California from September

California will grant licences for self-driving cars, but the regulations will be strict.

Driverless cars are going legal in California, with the California Department of Motor Vehicles granting licences from September. The licences will be for the robot cars AND their human operators.

California will start to approve licences for driverless cars from September.
California will start to approve licences for driverless cars from September.

At present, the laws around self-driving cars are ambiguous. The licences are being cautiously introduced to allow the driverless cars permission to be on the road. They are expected to cost $150 each. However, there are strict guidelines for application.

For starters, only ‘designated employees of select autonomous vehicle manufacturers can apply’ and they have to have been a licensed driver ‘for at least three years with no more than one point on their licence.’

If you’ve been caught drink-driving at all over the past ten years or been in an accident that caused an injury, you can count yourself out.

Manufacturers applying will need to find an insurer willing to cover the car, allowing for $5 million (£2.93 million) against personal injury, death and property damage. The licence will cover ten vehicles and 20 test drivers, though any accidents, damage or injury involving a self-driving vehicle need to be reported to the US version of the DVLA within ten days.

Toyota, Honda, GM and Google will be amongst the manufacturers likely to take advantage of the nascent legislation. Applications can be submitted from July, though licences won’t be approved until September.

The legality issue is crucial to the progression of autonomous vehicles on our roads. The UK has announced plans to change the Highway Code to accommodate driverless cars and will be watching California closely. 

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