The California DMV has new rules allowing for self-driving vehicle testing on state roads even without the presence of “safety drivers” (as of this week). The California Public Utilities Commission has itself now issued a proposal that builds on those rules and further clears a path for commercialization.
The proposal further clarifies requirements for companies wanting to provide the public with rides in such robotaxis. One of the proposed requirements, interestingly, is that the service has to be free. Another odd one: no airport rides are allowed. And here’s an obviously sensible one: the companies in question must have held a self-driving vehicle testing permit for at least 90 days before they begin picking up actual customers.
Other requirements include that passengers must be at least 18 years of age and that companies involved must provide regulators with regular and detailed reports (number of miles travelled, interruptions, trips completed, etc.).
Reuters provides more: “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 Waymo and General Motors Co 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.”
“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 regulated the industry.”
As a reminder here, while the recent pedestrian fatality caused by one of Uber’s self-driving test vehicles in Arizona has created a lot of bad PR for the tech in recent weeks, the reality is that the Uber self-driving vehicle test program was effectively kicked out of California quite a while back.
That being the case, and the lack of any pedestrian injuries of any kind (apparently) caused by any of the vehicles being tested by Waymo/Google or Cruise/GM, it seems unlikely that California’s regulators are going to slow down the pace of development in the state any time soon.
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