SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento city leaders are getting closer to partnering with driverless vehicle makers that will soon be able to legally operate on California streets.
On average, 10 pedestrians are killed each year on Sacramento city streets. Last year that number nearly doubled to 19 according to a review by CBS13 of pedestrian fatality data.
City innovators say lives can be saved when human hands are taken off the wheel.
“How do we do this in a thoughtful manner, so that we ensure the safety and security of the citizens?” said Louis Stewart.
He is Sacramento’s chief innovative officer. He’s working with a handful of tech companies experimenting with self-driving cars.
“Right now, we’re fairly close to landing a couple companies to partner with and test our different varieties of autonomous systems,” said Stewart.
Some cars are already here. Autonomous vehicles are being tested within city limits, but all of the testing is being done in controlled environments and on private roads.
The vehicles aren’t street legal just yet, but that will change come April 2 when the California Department of Motor Vehicles releases new guidelines.
“Here in California, we’ve been a whole lot more thoughtful around the safety of the citizens of the state,” said Stewart.
Under the new regulations, companies must notify each city they plan to operate in. They must have signage or markings on the driverless vehicle. And there must be a remote operator, which Stewart says is a middle step before true autonomy.
Still, some are skeptical of the vehicle’s current abilities.
“These cars are not ready for prime time yet, and when you talk with the tech industry they will sometimes admit that the cars can’t see in conditions like fog, snow, or even smoke,” said Rosemary Shahan, with Consumers for Auto Reliability.
As innovators line up, Sacramento city leaders make a push to test humanless vehicles on a street near you.