SAN RAMON, CA -- A pair of $250,000 autonomous buses began driving around an empty San Francisco Bay Area parking lot on Monday (March 6), preparing to move themselves onto a local public road in California's first pilot program for a self-diving vehicle without a steering wheel or human operator on city streets.
California and other states are weighing the opportunities of becoming a hub of testing a technology that is seen as the future of transportation and the risks from giving up control of a large, potentially dangerous vehicle.
Most self-driving cars are tested with people seated behind a steering wheel, ready to take over, although Alphabet Inc's Waymo tested a car with no steering wheel or pedals in Austin, Texas as early as 2015.
The project in San Ramon, California at the Bishop Ranch office park complex is backed by a combination of private companies and public transit and air quality authorities, with the intention of turning it into a permanent force.
State lawmakers late last year passed a law to allow slow-speed testing of fully autonomous vehicles without steering wheels or pedals on public roads.
The pair of 12-passenger buses from French private company EasyMile will test for a few months in the parking lots before operators apply for Department of Motor Vehicles approval under the new law. They are expected to swing onto the local street late this year or early in 2018.