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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reportedly approved two new programs that allow autonomous vehicle operators to launch their own robotaxis in the state. California had previously never allowed companies to use said autonomous vehicles to make money from a commercial ride-hailing service, but that’s about to change.
The CPUC, which is in charge of creating regulations for AVs in fleet services like taxis and ride-hailing, has been working on the new rules for a few years. According to a statement cited by The Verge, the Drivered Autonomous Vehicle Deployment Program and the Driverless Autonomous Vehicle Deployment Program are the two programs that will “allow participants to offer passenger service, shared rides, and accept monetary compensation for rides in autonomous vehicles.”
Genevieve Shiroma, the CPUC Commissioner, said the programs were important steps to support their study of “how autonomous vehicle fleets can be leveraged to support the grid as a demand side management resource, dovetailing on our efforts to incorporate transportation into the electric sector.”
Companies interested in participating in the two new programs will need to obtain either a charter-party carrier Class P permit or a Class A charter-party certificate in the Drivered AV Passenger Service pilot program issued by the CPUC, as well as an AV testing permit from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
California reportedly has the most demanding rules in the country for AV operators. The state requires companies to obtain a license for different types of testing, disclose vehicle crashes, list the number of miles driven, and the frequency at which human safety drivers were forced to take control of their autonomous vehicles. Currently, 60 companies have an active permit to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver in the state. Moreover, five specific companies have an additional permit that allows them to test fully driverless vehicles without human safety drivers behind the wheel on public roads.
Companies looking to launch robotaxi services will be required to submit quarterly reports to the CPUC that contain “aggregated and anonymized information about the pick-up and drop-off locations for individual trips; the availability and volume of wheelchair accessible rides; the service levels to disadvantaged communities; the fuel type used by the vehicles and electric charging; the vehicle miles traveled and passenger miles traveled; and engagement with advocates for accessibility and disadvantaged communities,” the commission said.
As we previously reported, an internationally recognized expert on Artificial Intelligence argued that what self-driving vehicles are missing is the human ability to detect accidents. This is something that current models don’t have and he doubts any self-driving car model will be able to develop in the new future.
He wrote that current self-driving vehicles are at a Level 2 and 3 phase with being safe enough to recognize accidents as they happen. Cars lack the ability that humans have to use their senses and reactive reflexes to recognize when accidents happen. Furthermore, believes that there is no way to develop a self-driving car that will create an accident-free future.
In late September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring that sales of all new passenger vehicles in California be zero emissions by 2035. By 2025, the state expects to have 250,000, including 10,000 so-called fast chargers that can refuel a battery electric vehicle to 80% full in about 30 minutes. That’s enough to support 1.5 million zero emissions vehicles.
The executive order would not prohibit Californians from owning gas-powered vehicles nor from selling them on the used car market, but will only apply to new vehicle sales in the state.