SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – California’s public utility regulator on Friday signaled it would allow self-driving car companies to transport passengers without a backup driver in the vehicle, a step forward for autonomous car developers just as the industry faces heightened scrutiny over safety concerns.

FILE PHOTO: A Waymo self-driving vehicle is parked outside the Alphabet company’s offices where its been testing autonomous vehicles in Chandler, Arizona, U.S., March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Heather Somerville

The California Public Utilities Commission, the body that regulates utilities including transportation companies such as ride-hailing apps, issued a proposal that could clear the way for companies such as Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo and General Motors Co (GM.N) to give members of the public a ride in a self-driving car without any backup driver present, which has been the practice of most companies so far.

FILE PHOTO: The GM logo is seen at the General Motors Warren Transmission Operations Plant in Warren, Michigan, U.S., October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

The California Department of Motor Vehicles had already issued rules allowing for autonomous vehicle testing without drivers, which took effect this week. The commission said its proposed rules complement the existing DMV rules but provide additional protections for passengers.

The proposal, which is set to be voted on at the commission’s meeting next month, would clear the way for autonomous vehicle companies to do more testing and get the public more closely acquainted with driverless cars in a state that has closely…

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