With a decision announced this week, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) made the state the first to allow the testing of completely driverless vehicles. While the ruling requires that these vehicles continue to be monitored, this decision is the first to allow for remote monitoring and control mechanisms which remove human drivers from the car itself. The DMV states that 50 companies have applied for permission to test their cars on the states’ roads and streets but commencing actual testing will require completing a detailed permit process prior to commencement.

This decision would allow self-driving tests to begin on April 2nd, just short of a month after Japanese automaker Nissan’s Easy Ride pilot launches in Yokohama, Japan. This trial, however, will continue to operate under close supervision from a human driver situated within the vehicles and be limited to a 4.5 kilometer route extending from Nissan headquarters to a local shopping center. The Easy Ride service is aimed to launch for full-scale autonomous service by the time of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, an ambitious schedule to see a truly comprehensive self-driving service launched.

Nissan's self-driving taxi test will not, however, be the only ones underway, a rather surprising development comes from Chinese autonomous vehicle technology start up Poni.ai which has become China's first self-driving taxi service. At present, the route only covers a 3.2 kilometer stretch from its headquarters in Nansha, Guongzhou, but the company expects rapid growth.

These test continue a series of tests undertaken by on-demand ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft as well as automakers Tesla, and autonomous vehicle technology developers such as Waymo, but California’s decision signals an important opening up of regulatory authorities that will allow for rapid upscaling of such demonstrations.

Read about the DMV’s notable decision 

Read Nissan’s press release regarding the Easy Ride pilot and see a demo video 

Read about Pony.ai's efforts

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