Driverless cars are legal in California, so what comes next?

Ground rules

With the new license requirements in effect, any driverless vehicles in California will need to be certified through the DMV. And don't think that just anyone can sit behind the non-wheel of a driverless vehicle either.

All test drivers need to be either an employee, a contractor or someone designated by the car company to drive. What's more, all the operators need to go through a driver safety program that the manufacturer has in place for these vehicles.

Other than these requirements, the rules are quite lax as the self-driving cars can operate on any public roadway in California, including freeways. The cars can also load up all the passengers they can carry, and there won't be any special badging to identify them as an autonomous unit. So the next time you see the driver next to you putting on makeup instead of holding the wheel, it might just be a self-driving car - hopefully.

Because there is a 120-day lag time for any bill to go into effect, Soriano said the licenses will go become valid on September 16, 2014.

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The first truly autonomous car

"After that date any manufacturer that wants to test a self-driving car on [California] roadways needs to meet the criteria we set forth," he said. "We want to make sure the regulations ensure that the manufacturers have fully tested these vehicles and they are safe to be deployed."

While the vehicles won't be marked, Soriano remarked the California DMV is considering the creation of a special license plate for completely autonomous vehicles. Under the NHTSA developed taxonomy scale, these level 4 fully self-driving vehicles would have no steering wheel such as Google's latest self-driving machines.

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.