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Roads? Yes. Drivers? Maybe Not.

It’s finally here. October 21, 2015—the date our beloved duo Marty McFly and Doc Brown landed in the Back to the Future franchise’s second film.

The date used to feel so far off and otherworldly. And in a way, it still does. We don’t have hoverboards (boo), we still play video games with our hands (darn), and the food we eat still comes fully hydrated (thank goodness).

And—this is the clincher—no flying cars. Sorry, Spielberg: Where we’re going, we still need roads.

That’s not to say things haven’t changed, automotively speaking. The wave of the future has in fact arrived, but it’s not cars you can fly. It’s cars you don’t drive. How cool is that?

“The DMV is excited to be part of creating the future for vehicle technology,” said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto.

Many vehicles on the road already operate with some level of autonomy, with self-driving and enhanced safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, parking assistance and lane departure warning systems.

But it’s the next level, the one that manufacturers are currently working on (and DMV is working with), that’s really exciting. Imagine: suburban commuters resting through rush hour, partygoers transported safely by a designated Durango, kids dropped at soccer practice by Jeeves the Jeep, and the blind and elderly achieving new levels of independence with a car that drives itself, and the people, just passengers.

Testing regulations for self-driving cars are already in effect, and vehicles are now being tested on our state’s roadways. While companies like Google and Tesla have stolen much of the spotlight, brands like Volkswagen, Mercedes, Delphi, Bosch, Nissan, BMW and Honda have thrown their hats in the automated ring, too.

Operational regulations, those that establish the standards manufacturers need to meet for the public to use autonomous vehicles, are still in development. Proposed requirements include indicators to occupants when autonomous technology is engaged, special license plates for completely self-driving vehicles, and devices that record sensor data for 30 seconds prior to a collision.

All the nitty-gritty aside, it’s no longer a question of if, but when cars take over the work. Don’t all hop in your DeLoreans at once – the date is as yet undetermined. Autonomous technology is very complex, the industry is evolving, and the cars should not be on the public roadways before they are fully ready. At the DMV, the safety of the motoring public is our primary concern.

But it’s a sure bet to say the next level is coming soon, as many in the industry have. Google’s project lead Chris Urmson has made it a goal for his son to never need a driver’s license (he’s 11); and Tesla’s Elon Musk has repeated in countless interviews that truly autonomous cars are likely just a few years away.

One thing’s for certain: 2015 has been a revelatory year for the future of our roadways, and we are proud to be a part of it.

“We are obviously not ready for flying cars, but the DMV is helping get California ready for self-driving cars,” Shiomoto said.

Get ready, California.

Visit our website for more information on autonomous vehicles.

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