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California gives unmanned self-driving cars the all clear

Self-driving cars can now be tested in California without the need for a human to be on-board thanks to new state legislation.

Until now, autonomous vehicles had to be tested with a human in the car in case something went wrong, but the new legislation makes it possible for companies to send their software-controlled cars out unmanned.

At two test sites, that is. The bill, signed off by state Governor Jerry Brown, only permits unmanned autonomous car tests at a couple of test sites, but it’s a big step towards road testing unmanned vehicles.

Related: Who’s to blame when robot cars get it wrong?

The bill relates specifically to a pilot project headed by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, and will allow workers at one site to be driven around by autonomous shuttles.

The other site, GoMentum Station, is a ‘ghost town’ where several companies, including Honda, have tested their vehicles already.

According to Engadget, Google and Apple have also expressed interest in using the GoMentum Station location to test their self-driving cars.

Although Apple is yet to officially announce it’s working on driverless technologies, there has been much speculation and plenty of rumours suggesting the company has been developing such technology for some time.

Related: Apple Car

The newly passed bill also means manual controls, such as a steering wheel and pedals, will not be required in test vehicles, but does limit testing to 35mph.

Earlier this week, one of Google’s self-driving Lexus test cars was involved in the worst crash yet for one of the firm’s cars after a van ran through a red light and collided with the side of the vehicle.

Google’s software was not to blame for the crash itself, however.

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Let us know what you make of the new bill in the comments.

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