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California Authorizes Free Test Rides in Autonomous Vehicles

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California Authorizes Free Test Rides in Autonomous Vehicles

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today authorized transportation companies using autonomous vehicles that are permitted to operate by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and under the CPUC’s jurisdiction to conduct two pilot programs to provide rides to members of the public.

The first pilot program will allow companies to provide passenger service using autonomous vehicles with a trained driver in the vehicle. The second pilot program will allow passenger service using driverless autonomous vehicles that meet the requirements set out by the DMV, including requirements to remotely monitor the status and operation of the vehicle. In keeping with the DMV’s rules, companies participating in the pilots may not charge for the rides until further CPUC approval.

The DMV’s rules that allow for autonomous vehicle driverless testing on roads became effective on April 2, 2018.  The CPUC’s decision today provides for the safety and consumer protection of passengers that accept rides from transportation entities subject to the CPUC’s jurisdiction. The decision is designed to work in tandem with the DMV’s regulations.

Commissioner Liane M. Randolph, the lead Commissioner for this proceeding, said, “I am pleased to launch these pilot programs as part of the evolution of the passenger transportation system in California.  Our state is home to world-class innovative companies and I look forward to these services being offered with the high level of safety that we expect from our passenger service providers.”

The decision authorizes Transportation Charter-Party Carrier (TCP) permit-holders to use test autonomous vehicles to provide passenger service, as long as the TCP permit-holder also holds an “Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program Manufacturer’s Testing Permit” issued by the DMV.  This allows TCP permit-holders to provide autonomous vehicle service to customers as long as a driver is also in the vehicle. Certain other conditions apply, including that the service must be provided free to the passenger; reports must be regularly submitted to the CPUC and the DMV on operations, collisions, and disengagements; and the entity providing passenger service must remain in compliance with the CPUC’s and the DMV’s permits at all times.

Today’s decision also allows TCP permit-holders that hold a “DMV Manufacturer’s Testing Permit – Driverless Vehicles” to operate autonomous vehicles without a driver in the vehicle, subject to certain restrictions. Authorization to provide this service is available only to TCP permit-holders with driverless autonomous vehicles that have been in DMV-permitted driverless operation on California roads for a minimum of 30 days.  Entities seeking to participate in the pilot program are not allowed to operate from or within airports; must limit the use of the vehicle to one chartering party at any given time (i.e., fare-splitting is not permitted); must ensure that the service can only be chartered by adults 18 years and older; and may not accept monetary compensation for the ride. Participants are also required to continuously comply with all DMV regulations, and to report certain data to the CPUC on a quarterly basis that will be publicly available.

These pilots precede a framework for full permanent deployment of autonomous vehicle passenger service that the CPUC will now begin to develop, with an anticipated Proposed Decision in the first quarter of 2019.  The CPUC emphasized the importance of including representatives of disabled communities in the design and operations of the deployment program, urging the companies to initiate such outreach and engagement now.

Source: CPUC

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