Self-driving taxis gain approval in California

November 30, 2020

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved two new programs that will allow companies operating autonomous vehicles to run driverless ride-hailing services. [The Verge]

Driverless ride-hailing services, also referred to as robotaxis, presently exist in a couple jurisdictions in the United States. Though California is a leader in the rollout of autonomous vehicles, the state has never previously allowed companies to use self-driving cars to operate commercial ride-hailing services.

Waymo, the self-driving division of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, operates Waymo One outside Phoenix, which provides about 1,000 to 2,000 rides a week. Three other companies, Lyft, Aptiv and Motional, have completed about 100,000 trips in Las Vegas over the last several years. Those operations aside, most autonomous vehicles on the road in the United States are either operating in testing-only capacity or are performing deliveries.

Currently, 60 companies have an active permit for testing autonomous vehicles with a safety driver in California. Five companies — Cruise, Waymo, Nuro, Zoox and AutoX — have an additional permit allowing them to test self-driving cars on public roads without human safety drivers behind the wheel.

The PUC’s new initiatives, dubbed the Drivered Autonomous Vehicle Deployment Program and the Driverless Autonomous Vehicle Deployment Program, will allow participants to offer passenger service, shared rides and to accept monetary compensation for riding in autonomous vehicles, the commission said in a statement.

Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma said the new programs enables the state to study how autonomous vehicle fleets can be leveraged to support the grid, while incorporating transportation into the electric sector. The state plans to ban the sale of new combustion-engine vehicles beginning in 2035.

The companies that participate in the new programs will need to obtain either a charter-party carrier Class P permit or a Class A charter-party certificate in the PUC’s Drivered AV Passenger Service pilot program, as well as an AV testing permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The application process is expected to take at least several months.

Additionally, companies that launch robotaxi services in California will have to submit quarterly reports disclosing information about pick-up and drop-off locations for individual trips, availability of wheelchair-accessible rides, service levels to disadvantaged communities, full type used by the vehicles, electric charging, vehicle and passenger miles traveled and engagement with advocates for disadvantaged communities.

California is considered to have some of the most stringent rules for autonomous vehicle operators, which include requiring companies to obtain licenses for different types of testing and disclosing vehicle crashes and the frequency at which human drivers needed to take over control of cars.

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I asked a person in the auto insurance industry …When a self driving car has an accident who’s at fault …his reply the owner of the vehicle .People might be able to blame their poor driving record on their car in the future

Self-driving is good, self-responsibility is also. But wait, there is no self. This is selfless-driving.

Another niche for lawyers.

If you own a nice car in CA you may want to hang used tires from it just in case any of these taxis decide to bounce off of you……what the heck…this may go as well as putting useless dust and dirt covered solar panels in so called “solar farms” in place of valuable land for agriculture and livestock….

Waymo reports 47 collisions in 6.1 million miles logged in 2019 in Arizona, with the majority of those caused by the other vehicle. But, I know, it’s a scary new world.

Right…blame the car with a human behind the wheel….sorry doesn’t pass the smell test…..

Have you not read any of articles about automobile fatalities on this site? That infallible “car with a human behind the wheel” sure does manage to kill plenty of people. Humans fall asleep, drive drunk/stoned, commit road rage, run red lights, ignore traffic laws, and make errors of judgement all the time. Your thinking that no humans could possibly be blamed in any collisions with robots is what doesn’t “pass the smell test”.

After experiencing decades of bad human drivers, I think I’ll take my chances with the robots!

What could go wrong?