"It could be sooner than that, but it's all contingent on when the regulations are approved", said Soublet. And operators will be required to report to the state when some technological upgrades are made, such as a change in the level of automation.
The proposed language would also allow for the vehicles to be operated on California streets once testing is complete and the car companies have certified that they are safe and in accordance with federal safety standards, the agency official said.
The new regulations can be viewed at the California's DMV website.
Manufacturers complained that this requirement was "overly broad" and potentially prohibitive to their development and testing cycle, and in response the CA DMV adjusted the regulation so that a new application must only be filed if a technology change meets one of a certain set of conditions, such as a change in the vehicle's SAE level - a standard measurement for the level of autonomy a vehicle possesses. The new regulations would relax that rule, but require any driverless car manufacturers to prove they're meeting federal benchmarks and that any files that federal regulators get on testing also go to the DMV.
California's change in tack comes as other states build momentum with looser regulations.
Although consumers can't yet get a self-driving car for themselves, the technology's long and windy road to market is getting shorter.
Still, Wednesday's announcement puts California on the verge of finalizing rules for public access which were due more than two years ago.
But they are a boost for automakers who want to be able to deploy vehicles without human controls in California.
California is not alone in the field of opening driverless cars to the roads.
Congress is considering legislation that would loosen federal requirements on driverless-car testing.
The state is not changing its prohibition on the testing of autonomous trucks, arguing that a separate rule-making process will be needed to allow for the testing of self-driving vehicles over 10,000 pounds. "Today's action continues the department's efforts to complete these regulations by the end of the year". Taking effect by June of 2018, the revised regulations will allow the testing of autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel and will allow the public to use vehicles equipped with autonomous technology.
John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog said Wednesday that California is ceding too much authority to the Trump administration.
California would also require automakers and tech firms to record information about autonomous sensors in the 30 seconds before a collision. State responsibility will focus on licensing human drivers, conducting inspections and regulating auto insurance.
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