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Autonomous/Automated Vehicles

DMV to Allow Testing of Autonomous “Light-Duty” Trucks on CA Roads

The fries you ordered with that meal will taste even better when delivered in this giant vehicle, with no driver aboard.

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

The DMV just released its final rules for companies who want to test "light-duty" trucks as delivery vehicles. It will begin approving applications for testing in a month, after which Californians may soon see autonomous delivery vehicles on their streets.

The regulations cover testing both with a driver present and without. As with currently allowed testing of autonomous vehicles, there are rules about operator training and reporting "disengagements." With vehicles that have no driver in them, there are additional rules about keeping a communication link between the vehicle and the remote operator and having a plan for "interacting with" law enforcement.

But there is nothing in the DMV rules about how many vehicles a remote operator can be managing at any one time. Beyond the "law enforcement interaction plan" there is no blanket rule on liability, either.

And there is no mention of the work done by other California agencies, including the Office of Planning and Research, on the principles that should guide planning for autonomous vehicles. Among those are these two, which seem germane:

    • AVs should be deployed in a way that makes other travelers, like pedestrians and bicyclists, be and feel safer on the street
    • AVs should be used efficiently for freight, ensuring that they don’t increase overall vehicle travel

The DMV says it "followed the same approach used for past AV regulations packages, including a public workshop and hearing" for these rules. It has also said it formulated the rules in response to requests from companies that were being "forced to move their testing operations to other states.”

But these rules are not for the cute little robots that clutter the sidewalks and accompany - or block - pedestrians. "Light-duty trucks" include large pickup trucks and vans, like the one in the lead photo. These aren't cute at all.

While 65 companies currently have permits to test autonomous vehicles on California roads, only one--Waymo--has a permit to test without a driver aboard. It remains to be seen whether allowing the testing of delivery vehicles will increase interest in the permits.

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