Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Testing and Operation Requirements

AVs may be operated on public roads for testing purposes, if there is a licensed vehicle operator seated in the driver’s seat monitoring the safe operation of the AV and capable of taking immediate manual control of the vehicle in the event that the automated driving system fails. AVs may not be operated on public roads for purposes other than testing unless the vehicle manufacturer submits an application to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the application is approved, and the AV meets, at minimum, the following requirements:

  • It is equipped with an easily accessible way for the driver to engage or disengage the autonomous driving system;
  • It contains an indicator inside of the vehicle that notifies the driver when the autonomous driving system is engaged;
  • It has a means to alert the driver when the autonomous driving system has failed and either allows the driver to take manual control of the vehicle, or is capable of bringing itself to a complete stop;
  • It meets all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; and
  • It has a separate mechanism to capture and save the vehicle’s sensor data at least 30 seconds before a collision involving the vehicle occurs.
Additionally, all AVs must be zero-emission vehicles by 2030. An AV is defined as any vehicle that is equipped with a technology that has the capability to operate the vehicle without the direct control of the driver. For more information, including how to apply for a testing permit, see the DMV’s Driverless Testing of AVs website.

(Reference California Vehicle Code 38750)

Jurisdiction: California

Type: Laws and Regulations

Enacted: Sep 25, 2012

Amended: Oct 12, 2017

Technologies: Connected and Autonomous Vehicles

See all California Laws and Incentives.