Apple, Tesla want changes to California's self-driving car tests

The changes could lead to more data that the company's autonomous car project can use.

Reuters/Beck Diefenbach

Califonia's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will soon review the new set of proposed regulations that could change how testing works in the state. If the proposals are approved, we might see some truly unmanned autonomous vehicles with no steering wheels cruising California's streets. Apple, Tesla and some of the other companies that have permission to test their vehicles in the state want to see more changes to its policy, though, so they sent the DMV letters with their suggestions. In Cupertino's case, it's asking the DMV to require much clearer disengagement reporting. "Disengagements" are what you call instances wherein the human tester had to take control of the vehicle from the self-driving system to prevent accidents.

The tech titan wants California to redefine disengagement, so that companies will include instances wherein the human drivers had to take the wheel to prevent even minor traffic violations. However, it believes certain instances shouldn't be officially counted as disengagements anymore, such as handing back control to a human driver due to system error or so that they could navigate a construction site. The changes will give Apple, whose permit to test is fresh out of the DMV, more accurate data for its experiments.

Both Apple and Tesla are also asking the state to allow testing of heavier autonomous vehicles. We're guessing the automaker has plans to unleash self-driving trucks on California roads -- we know it's working on at least one semi truck that Elon Musk teased during a recent TED talk.

Alphabet's autonomous car division Waymo is asking the DMV not to approve the new liability proposal that could make the automakers liable for crashes that aren't their vehicles' fault. Uber, which has tumultuous relationship with California's DMV, also sent in a request, and it stays true to the company's nature. The ride-hailing corporation wants authorities to allow paying customers to ride the cars it's testing with human drivers onboard.