Autonomous, light-duty trucks can now be used for commercial purposes on public roads in California. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles announced the proposal Tuesday, which outlines a permitting process for companies wishing to test or deploy driverless trucks for commercial use.
The new rule, which was first proposed in April 2019, only applies to autonomous vehicles weighing less than 10,001 pounds. That means only Class 1 and 2 trucks — which include minivans, pickup trucks, utility vans, and step vans — can receive permits for testing and commercial deliveries under the rule.
All vehicles in Class 3 through 8 that weigh more than 10,001 pounds — which include walk-in delivery trucks, semi trucks, buses, and heavy-duty construction vehicles — are not allowed under this permitting system.
This is sure to come as welcome news to those companies that are focused on grocery and package deliveries rather than passenger ride-hailing. Nuro, a self-driving delivery startup with pilot programs in Arizona and Texas, said it would apply for a permit to begin testing its autonomous delivery vehicles in California.
California is a hotbed for autonomous vehicle testing, so changes made to the state’s rules governing these tests are followed closely by companies, like General Motors, Alphabet’s Waymo, and Uber, that are developing fleets of self-driving cars for public use.
There are currently 65 companies permitted and over 670 autonomous vehicles that are licensed with the DMV, officials say. Waymo is the only company with a permit to test fully driverless vehicles — which means vehicles without human safety drivers behind the steering wheel — on public roads. (AutoX, a Chinese company, recently applied for a driverless permit, but has yet to be approved. )