Today, autonomous cars can be tested on all public roads in California, and 52 entities have received a license so far. Beginning April 2nd, 2018 companies can also operate vehicles without a safety driver on board (no company has yet received such a license).
To operate robotaxis that open the service to passengers like taxis or Uber, separate licenses are required. And those are proposed by the California Public Utilities Commission – which also regulates transportation network providers such as Uber and Lyft fallen. This would remove the hurdles for the most advanced companies like Waymo or GM Cruise to open their services to the public. Waymo has been testing such robotaxi fleets in Arizona in their Early-Rider-program.
Next month this proposal will be on the voting list for the commission’s board. The proposal requires that companies applying for a robotaxi license have held an autonomous vehicle testing license for at least 90 days. Passengers have to be at least 18 years, and the rides have to be free for the passengers. Rides to the airport are not allowed.
The commission also requires a regular report with the numbers of miles driven in autonomous mode, the number of rides, and how many handicapped passengers have used the service. If those test drives prove successful, the commission expects to allow paid robotaxis.
This article has also been published in German.