A recent AAA study revealed that, although the pandemic has resulted in fewer cars on the road, traffic deaths have surged. Speeding, alcohol-impairment, and reckless driving has caused the highest levels of crashes seen in decades, and the National Safety Council estimates a 9% increase in roadway fatalities from 2020. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) have the potential to increase traffic safety, and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) just took a step to advance their commercialization and deployment.
On February 28, 2022, the CPUC issued its first “Drivered Deployment” permits to Cruise LLC and Waymo LLC, allowing for passenger service in AVs with a safety driver present. The CPUC uses the term “drivered” to refer to AVs with safety drivers present, while those without safety drivers are referred to as “driverless”. The recently issued Drivered Deployment permits allow both companies to charge passenger fares and offer shared rides. According to a press release from the CPUC, the permits allow Cruise to “provide Drivered Deployment service on selected public roads in San Francisco between the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour,” and for Waymo to “provide Drivered Deployment service in designated parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties at any time of day or night at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour.” Neither company may operate during heavy fog or heavy rain.
The Drivered Deployment program is one of four CPUC-approved AV passenger service programs. As demonstrated in the chart below, each program involves four core features with varying permissions across the board: (1) whether carriers must hold a California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) AV Testing Permit; (2) whether a safety driver must be present in the vehicle; (3) whether fare collection is permitted; and (4) whether shared rides between passengers of different parties are permitted.
|Carriers Hold CA DMV AV Testing Permit?||Operation Without Safety Driver?||Fare Collection Permitted?||Shared Rides Permitted?|
Looking ahead, Cruise submitted an application for a Driverless Deployment permit, the disposition of which is currently pending before the Commission. This permit would also allow for fare collection and shared rides, but would permit operation without a safety driver present. The CPUC Commissioner recognizes that allowing for fare collection is an “important and measured step toward the commercialization and expansion of the [AV] service.” We see future opportunities for engagement with the CPUC on these issues, as the Commission anticipates hosting future public workshops to review the AV Deployment programs.
This blog post is a part of our Connected and Automated Vehicles Series. For more on connected and autonomous vehicles and our team, please visit Covington’s CAV Toolkit.