The Californian Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has released guidelines for autonomous testing that will take effect on September 16, 2014. These rules don’t cover consumer operation of self-driving cars but instead outline an extensive list of criteria that must be met by manufacturers before a computer controlled test car can be let loose on the general public.
Manufacturers are required to prove their cars have successfully been tested in a controlled environment, and a trained "test driver" has to be ready to take control during the trial run. Sensibly, they’re also forced to report any accident involving a test vehicle, as well as any instances where the "driver" needs to take control.
Testing permits will last one year, and will only set you back US$150. The real cost lies in insurance: namely the $5 million policy you’ll need to even be considered for a permit.
Companies like Google and Volvo, who are at the forefront of development in this area, have already clocked-up many 1000's of miles of on-road testing and you could be sitting back and letting the car drive you sooner than you think. When that day does arrive, the regulators in California will be ready – the DMV says that rules governing consumer operation of autonomous vehicle are due for release in January 2015.