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The Ride: CA proposes self-driving regs, Lebron James stars in self-driving car commercial

NBA superstar Lebron James is part of Intel's new self-driving car public service campaign.
NBA superstar Lebron James is part of Intel's new self-driving car public service campaign.

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The California Department of Motor Vehicles proposed new rules for self-driving cars Wednesday. If they take effect, cars without a human driver - or even a steering wheel or pedals - could be a reality on public roads as early as next summer.

Right now, 42 different companies have permits to operate self-driving cars on California roads, but the state has required them to have a human safety driver in the front seat. The new rules would negate the need for that safety driver.

California's new proposed regulations are an update to what California proposed in March, and they factor in what the US Department of Transportation said just last month — that it doesn’t want to regulate self-driving cars so much as give companies the flexibility they need to innovate. The California proposal dovetails with that by encouraging car companies to advance the technology but also requires self-driving car companies to certify they’re meeting federal safety standards as a prerequisite for letting these cars use public roads.

“The department looks forward to seeing those companies and additional companies advance the technology under these new regulations,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said. “Today’s action continues the department’s efforts to complete these regulations by the end of the year.” 

Still, most drivers remain unconvinced they want a robot driving.  Understanding that most Americans aren't ready to hand over control of their vehicles, Intel tapped NBA superstar Lebron James for a new public service campaign that began airing this week on NFL TV, as well as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. The spot shows James getting into the back seat of one of Intel's automated cars, which drives around without anyone at the wheel.

Google's self-driving car division, Waymo, also launched a public service campaign this week to educate the public about self-driving technology and win their trust. Waymo's Let's Talk Self-Driving campaign is a series of billboards and radio spots. Eventually the campaign will spread to other states, but it debuted in Arizona, where Waymo rolled out a self-driving car program earlier this year.