New Rules Enacted for Passenger Service Autonomous Vehicles in California


A researcher testing the speed of the self-driving car. / Photo by: BP63Vincent via Wikimedia Commons


The California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco has released a proposed decision about a framework and two pilot programs for autonomous vehicles in the Golden State.

The decision was made to regulate the performance of self-driving cars in the state and defend the safety of passengers. The first pilot program permits companies to provide a passenger service AV with a driver in the vehicle. While the second program permits the service of driverless autonomous vehicles. However, companies who aim for the second program must have testing permits issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Additionally, AV companies cannot charge passengers with services that have not been allowed yet, such as rides on the AVs, shuttle in and out of the airport or split fares in the ridesharing system. This is because the proposed programs are meant to introduce AVs in passenger service as a pilot test.

“Autonomous vehicles have tremendous potential to improve safety, accessibility, and quality of life. However, it’s still potential,” said Carla Peterman, Commissioner at CPUC.

If a company decides to participate in one of the two pilot programs, they need to submit a deed with its Transportation Charter-Party Carrier application which includes the AV vehicle proposed for passenger service. The vehicle will undergo a minimum of 30 days of on-road testing. The testing duration can be reduced depending on the sufficient amount of DMV permits and performance of the vehicle.

Businesses involved in autonomous vehicles made some objections to the proposed decision. Some of the groups voiced out that they need to keep their technology concealed and away from competition. The idea of unable to charge fare among passengers during the testing was also unappealing to them.

According to the commissioners who drafted the decision, the new regulation focuses on public safety and equity. While the decision is still premature, a set of permanent regulations is expected to be released early next year.