California Introductions Regulations to Allow Light-Duty Self-Driving Truck Testing

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【Summary】Sorry Tesla, semi trucks haven’t been given the green light yet, but autonomous utility vans and pickup trucks are okay to begin testing on public roads in California soon.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    May 24, 2019 10:17 AM PT
California Introductions Regulations to Allow Light-Duty Self-Driving Truck Testing

Autonomous cars may be testing on public roads at the moment, the most notable ones being operated by Waymo and Uber. Pickup trucks, though, are a whole different ball game. Not only are pickup trucks larger than regular vehicles, they're also capable of towing and hauling cargo, which makes things trickier for companies that want to use the machines for autonomous testing. It's one of the reasons why pickup trucks have waited on the sidelines.

Get Ready To See Light-Duty Autonomous Cars In California

Until now. California's Department of Motor Vehicles recently announced that it proposed regulations that would "establish a path for companies to test or deploy light-duty autonomous motor trucks (delivery vehicles) on the state's public roads." Under the proposed regulations, companies would be able to test self-driving light-duty vehicles that weight less than 10,001 pounds. The catch, there's always a catch, is that the companies will have to receive permit from the DMV that they'll have to apply for.

According to The Verge, that weight limit includes light-duty vehicles from the DMV's Class 1 and Class 2 configurations. So companies aren't constricted to just test pickup trucks that meet the weight requirement, but minivans, utility vans, and step vans. A lot of those vehicles are currently used for delivery purposes, so being able to test them on public roads will be a major upside for companies. Unfortunately, machines like semi trucks, buses, large construction vehicles, and delivery trucks, which are classified from Class 3 to Class 8 vehicles, are not included in the new guidelines.

A Lot Of Things Are Still Up In The Air

The DMV's announcement didn't specify whether the state would require companies to publish self-driving car disengagement reports, which it requires companies testing autonomous cars to do. We can't imagine that not being a specification under the new regulations, though. And we'd be interested to compare disengagement reports for cars against those of light-duty vehicles.

The regulations also don't state whether California will allow companies to test fully-autonomous light-duty vehicles on public roads. At the moment, only one company has a permit to test self-driving vehicles without human backup: Waymo.

California is a hotbed for autonomous testing. The Verge reports that 62 companies currently have permits to test autonomous cars in the state. All together, there are roughly 678 self-driving cars on California's roads at the moment. If the regulations for light-duty trucks were to pass, we wouldn't be surprised to see that figure get close to the 1,000 mark.

As the outlet points out, the new regulations are a step toward eventually allowing companies to test self-driving semi trucks that are classified as Class 8 vehicles. Semi trucks are on track to revolutionize the trucking industry and, depending on how tests of light-duty vehicles goes, we're sure we'll see regulations for Class 8 machines down the road.

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