Self-Driving Light Trucks Will Be Allowed on California Roads

David Grossman
Photo credit: DAVID MCNEW - Getty Images

From Popular Mechanics

In a victory for several of the state's biggest tech companies, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced "a path for companies to test or deploy light-duty autonomous motor trucks (delivery vehicles) on the state’s public roads."

California is home to some of the biggest players in autonomous driving, including Tesla and Waymo For years, these companies have tested self-driving vehicles in states like Arizona and Pennsylvania. In 2018, the California DMV issued its first permit for testing self-driving cars on public roads to Waymo. Now, it appears to be opening up the process to certain classes of vehicle.

According to the DMV's proposed regulations, companies can test autonomous delivery vehicles" weighing less than 10,001 pounds with an approved permit from the DMV." That qualifies Class 1 and Class 2 vehicles-minivans, pickup trucks, utility vans, and step vans will all be allowed onto the road. Vehicles over weighing more than 10,001 pounds are out of luck. There's a crucial caveat-if used for deliveries, they will not be allowed to charge a delivery fee.

Public opinion remains deeply skeptical about self-driving vehicles. Surveys from recent years have shown as many as two-thirds of Americans would be uncomfortable with the idea of traveling in an autonomous vehicle, and somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with them on the road at all. When a semi-autonomous car built by Uber killed a woman in Arizona, it didn't help things.

But amidst the caveats and the tensions, companies sense that there is serious money to be made. Analysts predict that by 2025, 85 percent of last-mile deliveries could be made with semi or completely autonomous vehicles.

The DMV's comments triggers the beginning of a 45-day public comment period on the proposed policies which will end May 27, 2019. Companies are thinking already thinking bigger. While larger trucks aren't allowed by the new regulations, companies are getting ready for them as well.

Source: The Verge

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