California now allows the commercial use of light autonomous delivery vehicles, paving the way for robot pizza deliveries and more. The use of autonomous vehicles in California is not new with this latest change an extension to the regulations that were already in place. The newly adopted rules were first proposed by the California DMV in April.

Autonomous vehicles come in two main varieties at the moment. There are those that feature a safety driver and those that don’t. The latter, driverless vehicles, are the end goal for many tech companies although in a bid to ensure the safety of everyone on the roads, companies are required to go through the safety driver stage first. The regulations regarding autonomous vehicles differ from state to state. In California, for example, Waymo was previously the only company that has been approved to test fully driverless vehicles on state roads. Following the introduction of the latest regulations, approved companies are now permitted to test and use delivery vehicles with or without a driver.

The State of California DMV has now approved the testing (and commercial use) of light-duty autonomous vehicles on state public roads. The latest regulations were approved on December 16th and specifically relate to vehicles that weigh less than 10,001 pounds. Some of the vehicles the California DMV defines as classed in this weight category include “autonomous passenger cars, mid-sized pickup trucks and cargo vans carrying goods such as pizza or groceries.” Vehicles weighing more than the 10,001 pound limit remain bound by the previous rules and regulations.

Pizza And More Delivered Without A Driver

The change doesn’t necessarily mean anyone can now take to the roads in California with a light-duty autonomous vehicle as a special permit from the DMV is required. A second permit is added to the equation for those who actually plan to not just test but also use the vehicles for deliveries. At present, the number of approved companies is limited, although that’s now expected to change with the DMV confirming it can begin approving new applications in 30 days. In addition to the permit, companies also need to ensure autonomous vehicles are equipped with a California-compliant autonomous vehicle data recorder so it can identify and respond to situations on the road. That is, as well as having been certified for protection against any third-parties taking control, including cyber-attacks.

What it does mean is California has now taken a step closer to a time when smaller goods, including groceries and pizza, can be delivered by an autonomous vehicle. In many ways, this was the biggest step as there are already companies like Nuro who have the technology ready to go. For example, Nuro and Walmart have already started testing Walmart deliveries to select residents in Houston, TX with a view to rolling the service out to more Houston residents throughout 2020. With Nuro operating out of California, it is unlikely to be long before a similar announcement is made in The Golden State. Following the California DMV’s announcement, Nero was quick to release its own confirming plans to test and deploy autonomous vehicles in California.

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Source: DMV