The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has now officially released a statement outlining the conditions under which two autonomous vehicle pilot programs will be able to transport passengers. Although the state has been near the forefront of the implementation of the relatively new technology, it goes without saying that those rules are pretty stringent to start out with. According to documentation released by CPUC on May 31, the pilots can only involve companies that have already obtained Transportation Charter-Party Carrier permits. Permits for operating autonomous vehicles, provided by the state’s DMV as “Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program Manufacturer’s Testing Permits” also needed, of course. Meanwhile, companies taking part in the pilot are required to give out the rides for free and only for riders over the age of 18. Last but not least, participating companies have to ensure that the vehicles do not operate around airports and only one “chartering party” can utilize the vehicles at any given time.
Although the associated documents don’t mention any specific company by name, the autonomous vehicle project belonging to Google’s parent-company seems an obvious choice. Not only has Waymo already been testing its self-driving vehicles in the state for several months. The Alphabet-owned company also recently requested as many as 62,000 further self-driving vehicles from its partners with the Fiat Chrysler Group. At very least, that gives the impression that Waymo is preparing to expand its testing by quite a bit and, given its track record, at least part of that could point to its involvement with these new pilots. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, however, remains to be seen. The company is also opening tests elsewhere in the country and the extra vehicles may be needed for those.
In any case, the pilots are also said to be a part of a preceding framework for plans to roll out a full deployment of autonomous vehicle passenger services. CPUC will also be taking part in the development of that and the current date expected for that proposal decision is set for some time in the first quarter of next year. The quarterly reports companies are required to submit as part of these new pilots will likely be taken into consideration in those efforts. In the meantime, those reports will also be made publicly available as part of the pilot program and the official announcement of the new decision can be found via the button below.