Since April 2nd companies can apply at the California DMV for an official license to test autonomous vehicles without a safety driver, respectively without even a human on board.
According to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, Waymo and one other unnamed entity have applied for such a test license. Waymo currently is leading with an average disengagement every 9,000 kilometers, far ahead of all other companies testing autonomous cars. GMCruise has disengagements every 2,000 kilometers.
So far California regulations have still required a safety driver, ready to interfere and atke control in case of an emergency, on board of the vehicles, For several months Waymo has been testing vehicles without a safety driver on public roads in Chandler in Arizona in their Early Rider program. Waymo wants to start tests in California around their headquarters in Mountain View.
California DMV has 10 days to check an application for completeness, but has an indefinite time to issue license. The first unnamed company to apply for a license early April was informed to submit additional information.
The companies have to inform the cities in which those tests will happen beforehand and work out an interaction plan with local authorities and emergency responders. Waymo vehicles are not going to be remote controlled, but are being constantly monitored by the company. In case the car comes into a situation where it struggles, the car can contact central operators, and after input from humans it is supposed to make its own decisions and maneuver itself out of the situation.
Similarly, the Public Utility Commission, which is responsible for licensing taxis, is supposed to pass regulations next month to allow the operation of robotaxis.
In China three ministries have passed a joint regulation that allows tests of autonomous vehicles on public roads. Starting May 1st, vehicles and motorbikes with low speed are allow to roam the roads.
Several Chinese regions already passed regulations independent from the central government. Shanghai, Beijing, and Chongqing issued licenses and handed out special license plates to Baidu and Nio. Those test licenses still require a safety driver on board who can take control at any moment.
This article has also been published in German.