Leave it to California to jump the gun on regulating the most important automotive innovation since Henry Ford’s assembly line.

Before automakers have figured out how the self-driving cars of the future will actually work, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has drafted regulations to tell them what they can and can’t do.

Among the draft rules are that the cars must have a steering wheel, which may or may not prove to be a safety hazard once all of the engineering is finished. A licensed driver will also have to be inside the autonomous vehicles.

Slapping arbitrary technology restraints on vehicles that are nowhere ready for the road will slow their development.

California rules matter, unfortunately, because it is the largest vehicle market. The DMV says its primary interest is in safety. That’s also the highest primary for automakers, who understand that putting unsafe autonomous vehicles on the road risks killing the innovation in its infancy.

The goal should be to let the research and technology decide what self-driving cars need to be safe.

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