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California proposes to allow passengers in autonomous vehicles

ABR Staff Writer Published 09 April 2018

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued a proposal, which would allow passenger carriers to provide free test rides in autonomous vehicles.

The proposal would authorize transportation firms using autonomous vehicles that are permitted to operate by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and under the CPUC’s jurisdiction to undertake pilot programs to provide rides to members of the public.

The initial pilot program would enable companies to provide passenger service using autonomous vehicles with a trained driver in the vehicle.

The second pilot program would 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.

Companies participating in the pilots may not charge for the rides until further CPUC approval.

This move is considered to be a step forward for the developers of self-driving cars, as developers are now facing more scrutiny.

The CPUC has the authority to regulate transportation companies including automakers and ride-hailing apps.

In late February, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has given its approval for testing self-driving vehicles on public roads without the need for a backup driver at the wheel. These new rules were to come into force from this month.

As per the California Public Utilities Commission, the proposed new rules will complement the existing rules of DMV and offer additional protection to passengers.

The commission will conduct voting on the new ruling next month and the rules are expected to clear the way for automakers and technology companies to conduct more testing of the self-driving vehicles and get more and more people acquainted with such vehicles.

The new rules from the commission also reflects the way regulators across the country take a look at the safety of self-driving vehicles, after the recent accident in Arizona killed a pedestrian.

The commission’s new rules state that the companies are required to hold an autonomous vehicle testing permit from the DMV for at least 90 days before the service is actually offered to passengers.

The passengers must be at least 18 years old. The trips must be free of cost. Companies are now allowed to accept any kind of payments from passengers. Passengers are also not allowed to take trips to airports.

As per the proposed new rules, companies are required to submit regular reports to the regulators including the number of miles driven by the vehicle, the number of rides that have been completed and the number of disabled persons that they have served.


Image: Waymo’s autonomous vehicle in Los Altos, California. Photo: Courtesy of Dllu/Wikipedia.org.