California regulators approved a new permitting process that will allow companies to charge fees for autonomous vehicle rides, paving the way for AV commercialization in California. The decision, which was approved unanimously, requires applicants to first show proof of an active Department of Motor Vehicles permit before applying to the Public Utilities Commission for a commercial permit. All permit applications will be subject to a Commission Vote.
Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma told Politico she expected firms to start applying soon. “Companies are poised to submit these applications pretty quickly after we vote out this decision,” she said. At present, seven companies have received permits under the current framework which allows them to offer autonomous rides but not to charge fares.
Annabel Chang, Waymo’s head of state policy, expressed her excitement to fully operate their autonomous vehicles in California, “The CPUC’s decision comes at a key time as we bring more of our latest technology to San Francisco and look forward to putting our Waymo Driver to use in service to Californians.”
Notably, the Commission imposed several reporting requirements to target specific policy concerns including safety, accessibility, equity and environmental justice. For example, companies will be required to report the census tracts where each ride originates and is completed, and to record neighborhood accessibility. To further enhance access equality, all companies will have to report quarterly on outreach efforts to “advocate for accessibility and for disadvantaged, low-income, or underrepresented communities,” and describe whether and how they’ve incorporated the groups’ feedback into their operations.
The decision does not impose additional safety requirements, leaving safety regulation to the Department of Motor Vehicles.