While it may seem like California introduced its new permits at a bad time -- Uber and Tesla were recently involved in fatal accidents while their self-driving technologies were engaged -- the state approved the new regulations way back in February. The rules also include conditions automakers must be able to meet before they can get their hands on those permits.
To be able to get permission to test driverless cars, for instance, they must have already tested them in a controlled environment. Also, their creation must meet Society of Automotive Engineers' definition of a Level 4 or 5 autonomous vehicle. That means their cars should be able to drive and stop themselves with no human interaction need; Level 5 vehicles can also have no steering wheels, gas or brake pedals. That said, California requires automakers to monitor their driverless vehicles using remote human operators, who can take over their controls if and when needed.
It may take a while before you see Level 4 or 5 autonomous cars driving around The Golden State, though. A DMV spokesperson told TechCrunch that nobody has applied for deployment yet and only one company has applied for a permit to test fully driverless cars.