Automakers can now start testing fully driverless cars on California’s roads, despite recent crashes in California and Arizona involving autonomous driving technology. According to the state DMV’s new regulations that became effective on April 2nd, it can now issue three types of autonomous vehicle testing permits. The first kind is the original one it approved years ago, which needs a driver behind the wheel, while the other two could pave the way for the release of Level 4 to 5 autonomous vehicles. The second type of permit the DMV can dole out will allow automakers to test fully driverless vehicles, and the third will give the companies permission to deploy them.
While it may seem like California introduced its new permits at a bad time — Uber and Tesla were recently involved in fatal accidents while their self-driving technologies were engaged — the state approved the new regulations way back in February. The rules also include conditions automakers must be able to meet before they can get their hands on those permits. Following the accident involving an Uber self-driving vehicle in Arizona, the state has suspended Uber’s license to test self-driving cars on the roads.
Tesla also came out this week to report that the fatal Model X crash happened with Autopilot engaged, though the driver ignored several warnings to take over control of the vehicle.To be able to get permission to test driverless cars, for instance, they must have already tested them in a controlled environment. Also, their creation must meet Society of Automotive Engineers’ definition of a Level 4 or 5 autonomous vehicle.
That means their cars should be able to drive and stop themselves with no human interaction need; Level 5 vehicles can also have no steering wheels, gas or brake pedals. That said, California requires automakers to monitor their driverless vehicles using remote human operators, who can take over their controls if and when needed.It may take a while before you see Level 4 or 5 autonomous cars driving around The Golden State, though. A DMV spokesperson said that nobody has applied for deployment yet and only one company has applied for a permit to test fully driverless cars.
Before automakers are allowed to have customers in autonomous taxi’s the state will need to adopt a proposal issued by the California Public Utilities Commission. The public utility regulator’s proposed rules would allow autonomous vehicles to give rides to the public as part of a pilot program — that is, so long as their creators meet a few conditions.
To start with, only cars with backup drivers can initially take passengers. That won’t be a problem, since only one company has applied for permission to test no-driver cars in California. However, the rules are expected to extend to fully driverless cars in the future.
Companies must also provide the service for free at first, with the CPUC planning to develop regulations for paid rides, but that’ll come after this initial set of rules get approved.Cars participating in pilot programs can’t do pick ups and drop offs at airports, and passengers must be 18 years and older.
Any company that chooses to take part must regularly file reports indicating the number of miles their self-driving vehicles travel, the rides they complete and the number of disabled passengers they serve.
Finally, they need to wait 90 days after getting an autonomous testing permit from the DMV before their vehicles can start driving passengers around.In the proposal by Commissioner Liane M. Randolph, she explained that her proposed rules “allow the introduction of AVs into passenger service to the public on a pilot basis, while providing for the safety and consumer protection of the passengers, consistent with the Commission’s regulation of private passenger-carrying transportation entities subject to its jurisdiction.” She also said that they “are designed to work in tandem with the DMV’s jurisdiction over regulations addressing the safe operation of AVs themselves.”
The commission is slated to discuss and vote on the proposal during its May 10th meeting, so we won’t have to wait to long to find out whether California locals can catch an autonomous car ride to their destination. If the proposed rules get approved, it’ll be another milestone for the autonomous vehicle industry.