The talking points surrounding robotic farm equipment usually focus on the decreased need for humans to interface with machines. We use words like "driverless" and "autonomous" to describe the lack of human involvement with farm equipment. For the most part, as long as driverless machinery stays in the field and off of public roads, there are few regulations that prevent these new technologies.
But what about worker safety around autonomous farm vehicles? Perhaps this is the question that drove California to add regulations prohibiting driverless machinery unless a person remains at the wheel (somewhat defeating the point). California's OSHA regulations require all "self-propelled equipment" to have an operator "stationed at the vehicular controls" whenever the machine is moving. There is an exception for furrow guided equipment, which allows an operator to control the vehicle remotely provided he or she stays within 10 feet of the controls and the equipment is not moving at greater than 2 mph.
Here is the full text of the California OSHA regulation:
All self-propelled equipment shall, when under its own power and in motion, have an operator stationed at the vehicular controls. This shall not prohibit the operator occupying or being stationed at a location on the vehicle other than the normal driving position or cab if controls for starting, accelerating, decelerating and stopping are provided adjacent and convenient to the alternate position. If the machine requires steering other than ground or furrow steering or operates at ground speeds in excess of two miles per hour, steering controls shall also be provided at the alternate location. Seedling planters and other similar equipment traveling at a speed of two miles an hour or less where a control that will immediately stop the machine is located at the operator's work station will satisfy this requirement.