With Autonomous Vehicles (AV) on the horizon, we can expect to see uniquely tailored regulation introduced into the transportation industry to address legitimate public concerns. Autonomous Vehicles describes driverless or self-driving vehicles outfitted with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). The Department of Transportation has begun to lay out guidelines for how they expect these companies to operate, and potential laws moving forward, however there is currently no federal legislation related to AVs. As it stands, we must look to the states to determine the direction of AV legislation; primarily California.

California Regulation of Autonomous Vehicles

There are over 50 companies that currently hold permits in California to test AVs, and because of this, California’s experimental legislation will likely set a guideline for the rest of the country and the federal departments to follow. California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 38750 requires the DMV to adopt regulations governing the testing and public use of AVs in CA.

Title 13, Division 1, Chapter 1, Article 3.7 – Testing of Autonomous Vehicles – outlines California’s regulations on AVs. These statutes outline the Requirements for a manufacturer’s Testing Permit, the requirement of a certificate of Self-Insurance, AVs proof of financial responsibility, identification of AVs, Manufacturer’s permit to test autonomous vehicles and other associated requirements. California has implemented the following prohibitions on operation on Public Roads:

  • AVs may not be operated on public roads by a person other than someone identified to the department as authorized by the manufacturer to operate the manufacturer’s AV;
  • Without a driver in the driver seat prepared to take physical control of the vehicle in the event of an autonomous technology failure;
  • Driver’s must have proof of financial responsibility;
  • Manufacturers may not currently receive compensation or charge a fee for providing a ride to members of the public;
  • Trailers as defined in Vehicle code sections 242, 324, and 635 may not operate on public roads;
  • Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds.

Additionally, if an AV is involved in a collision, California requires a manufacturer to report within 10 days of the collision to the state using the Report of Traffic Collision Involving an Autonomous Vehicle, form OL 316 (REV2/2017). Manufacturer’s must report all discovered and known safety defects to the department in compliance with the timeframe and requirements specified in Part 573, Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.


Because this technology is entirely new to the world of transportation, the law is in its infancy and continues to develop. We can expect to see more states adopt California’s regulations and build on them as issues begin to surface that have not previously been discovered. Industries with plans to use AVs for logistical transportation should keep an eye on California’s state regulations as it appears this state will prove to be a leader in development and regulation of AV.