Silicon Valley has become the major hub for driverless vehicle research, making California the site of major innovation when it comes to laws and policies governing autonomous vehicles on public roads. That research has come a long way in just a few short years, leading to the California Public Utilities Commission to finally authorize driverless autonomous vehicles to operate two pilot programs which offer rides to the public. Does this signal a turning point in the efforts to bring self-driving vehicles to the public?
That all depends on the success of these two pilot programs. According to a press release issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the first pilot program will require a trained backup driver to ride in autonomous vehicles, while the second will allow passengers to ride in completely driverless vehicles as long as the meet the safety and transparency requirements established by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Those requirements ensure that companies monitor and track all of the data related to the operation of those driverless vehicles.
For now, companies aren’t allowed to charge for these rides – that all depends on later CPUC approval. Still, CPUC Commissioner Liane M. Randolph says that these first steps are all part of the autonomous transportation revolution underway in California:
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.
This approval is temporary and only includes the two pilot programs. If all goes well, CPUC is likely to make them permanent beginning in 2019. Let’s hope this goes better than Uber’s recent autonomous vehicle testing in Arizona.