California to allow testing of light-duty self-driving trucks

California would allow for the testing of light-duty autonomous trucks on public roads under a proposed rule announced Friday. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles announced the proposal today, which outlines a permitting process for companies wishing to deploy driverless trucks for testing.

The rule would only apply 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 — could receive permits for testing under the proposed rule. All vehicles in Class 3 through 8 — which include walk-in delivery trucks, semi trucks, buses, and heavy-duty construction vehicles — would not be allowed under this permitting system.

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 62 companies permitted and nearly 300 autonomous vehicles that are licensed with the DMV, officials say. Waymo is the only company with a permit to test fully driverless vehicles on public roads.

This proposed rule appears to be a small step toward eventually allowing Class 8, heavy-duty semi trucks with autonomous equipment to be tested on public roads. Waymo has been testing its self-driving tractor trailers in Atlanta. Other companies, like Daimler and TuSimple, are also working toward a fully driverless truck.

For now, the DMV’s new rule would seem to open the door to those companies that are testing much smaller delivery vehicles, like Nuro, Udelv, and Ford — though those companies are already permitted under the state’s main AV testing program.

This article is from The Verge

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