The newly published decree doesn't mean that just anyone can take to the roads in one of the smart vehicles, but does give the Italian transport ministry the ability to authorize tests of driverless cars on the country's roads. This might include universities, other research institutions, or vehicle manufacturers.
All the tests will be carried out “in conditions of absolute safety”, the ministry said, and the body carrying out the tests must give the ministry a detailed report on any issues discovered in the driverless system.
One of the key points is that these cars still need to have someone on board, who will be able to take control of the vehicle in the event of anything going wrong. This is in contrast to in California in the US, where state authorities in February authorized the use of fully driverless cars.
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The decree was published as part of the 2018 budget law in the Gazzetta Ufficiale – the Italian government's official journal of record – after Transport Minister Graziano Delrio first announced the plan last March.
And it's not just about the cars: the new law is also a big step towards other kinds of transport technology, including better infrastructure to provide real-time updates on things like weather and traffic conditions.
The ministry further announced that a Smart Road Observatory would be set up to monitor how the decree was put into effect.
Italian-American car manufacturer Fiat Chrysler announced last year that it was joining a BMW-led group to develop fully self-driving vehicles, and has also partnered with Google spin-off Waymo to help expand its fleet of driverless cars.
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