The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recently declared that “a path for companies to test or deploy light-duty autonomous motor trucks (delivery vehicles) on the state’s public roads,” has been allowed. This paves the way for tech companies to further test their prototypes.
This certainly augurs well for both Tesla and Waymo which are based in California. The two companies are well-invested in developing automated driving platforms. Previously, self-driving vehicles were tested in Pennsylvania and Arizona. The California Department of Motor Vehicles initially came out with its permit allowing Waymo to test self-driving cars on public roads last year. This 2019, it is becoming apparent that they will allow certain classes of vehicle.
In the DMV’s proposed rules, it allows testing autonomous delivery vehicles “weighing less than 10,001 pounds with an approved permit from the DMV.” This would include Class 1 and Class 2 vehicles like pickup trucks, minivans, utility and step vans. Vehicles that weigh more than 10,001 pounds are excluded. Another unique stipulation is that vehicles performing delivery services cannot charge a delivery fee.
Self-driving vehicles have yet to earn a favorable reputation with the general public. Research conducted on the subject reveals that two-thirds of Americans are not comfortable with traveling in an automated vehicle. Furthermore, the studies also show that 50 to 60 percent of Americans do not like the idea of these vehicles being on the road. To make public opinion worse, an incident involving an Uber built semi-automated car killed a woman in Arizona.
Still, revenue potential continues to push companies towards semi-automated vehicle development. Experts foresee that by 2025, 85 percent of last-mile deliveries can be performed by semi or fully automated vehicles.
The comments of the DMV start a 45-day public feedback mechanism. Comments on the proposed policies will end on May 27, 2019. As this is ongoing, companies are already studying the next curve. In the pipeline are how larger trucks can be retrofitted to also be automated in the near future.