The California Department of Motor Vehicles just released proposed regulations to allow companies to test light-duty autonomous vehicles on public roads. These are minor amendments to current regulations on autonomous vehicle testing, removing a prohibition on trucks and on using test vehicles to deliver goods.
The DMV’s “statement of reasons” says this is in response to requests from companies that want to test and deploy vehicles that can deliver goods, including “groceries and takeout meals.” Under existing regulations, says the statement, “some manufacturers interested in developing autonomous motortrucks have been forced to move their testing operations to other states.”
The proposal would allow companies to test vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds, which is what counts as “light-duty” trucks. That includes vehicles that most bicycle riders and pedestrians would consider humongous, such as Ford F-150s or similar vehicles.
Note that the companies testing vehicles would not be allowed to charge for delivery, similar to the way they are not allowed to charge any passengers that might be riding in an autonomous vehicle. They would, however, be allowed to charge for the goods themselves.
So when your neighbors order take-out, their meals could arrive in an oversized pickup with no driver aboard.
Comments on the regulations will be accepted until May 27 at this email address. A public hearing will be held on May 30 in Sacramento to discuss the regulations and any comments that have been received, and to hear from the public.
The DMV says that 62 companies currently hold valid permits to test autonomous vehicles with a driver onboard, and one company–Waymo–has a permit to test vehicles without a driver present.