California Public Utilities Commission Issues First Autonomous Vehicle Drivered Deployment Permits

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By Andrew D. Kent

On February 28, 2022, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced the issuance of Drivered Deployment permits to Cruise LLC (Cruise) and Waymo LLC (Waymo) to allow for passenger service in autonomous vehicles (AVs). The Drivered Deployment permits are distinct because they allow for fare collection and shared rides and require a safety driver to be present in the vehicle.

Cruise and Waymo both held a CPUC Drivered Pilot permit and requested conversion of that permit into a Drivered Deployment permit. CPUC staff performed a ministerial review and determined that both carriers meet the program requirements set forth in D.20-11-046 as modified by D.21-05-017. Therefore, CPUC staff issued the converted permits. Both permits authorize a specific Operational Design Domain (ODD), which limits AV service to specific geographical constraints and operational conditions. Cruise’s ODD allows for Drivered Deployment service on selected public roads in San Francisco from 10PM to 6AM at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. Waymo’s ODD allows for Drivered Deployment service in designated parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties at any time at speeds up to 65 miles per hour.

The CPUC will continue collecting quarterly reporting data from pilot participants and begin collecting expanded quarterly data from deployment participants.

Additionally, on November 5, 2021, Cruise submitted an advice letter requesting a driverless deployment permit which would allow Cruise to provide passenger service on a test basis in an AV without a safety driver present and without collecting fares. The advice letter is currently pending.

The CPUC addresses AV policy and regulatory issues under R.12-12-011 which was initiated in December 2012, originally to assess the public safety risks of then-new rideshare technologies, now known as Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). The CPUC regulates the use of AVs in providing services in California through the permitting processes for the programs, data collection and analysis, and potential investigation or enforcement actions.

There are four AV passenger service programs that carriers can participate including (1) drivered pilot, (2) driverless pilot, (3) drivered deployment and (4) driverless deployment. On November 19, 2020, the CPUC adopted D.20-11-046 which created two new AV deployment programs: one for drivered AVs and the other for driverless AVs. D.20-11-046 expanded upon D.18-05-043 which created the framework for the two pilot programs for both drivered and driverless AVs. [25:2 CRLR 167–68; 26:1 CRLR 190–92]

Additionally, D.20-11-046 established four goals that apply to the four AV passenger service programs: (1) protect passenger safety; (2) expand the benefits of AV technologies to all of California’s communities; (3) improve transportation options for all, particularly for disadvantaged communities and low-income communities, and (4) reduce greenhouse gas emissions, criteria air pollutants, and toxic air contaminants, particularly in disadvantaged communities. [26:1 CRLR 191]

The public can comment on the AV policy and regulatory proceedings via the Docket Card.  Additionally, the public can contact the CPUC AV Program staff at AVPrograms@cpuc.ca.gov.

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