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California Opens the Door for Autonomous Vehicles



California Opens the Door for Autonomous Vehicles

The age of autonomous vehicles in California is getting closer with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles giving the green light to begin testing light duty autonomous vehicles on the roads. This announcement gets the ball rolling for more potential delivery services for groceries and take-out. There won’t be any self-driving cars for ride-hailing services yet and tests will be done with human drivers and without them.

What Makes an Autonomous Vehicle?

Companies can apply for a permit under this new rule with vehicles that fall under these requirements: 

  • Must weigh less than 10 001 pounds
  • Fall into Class 1 or Class 2 truck category
  • Cannot be a Class 3 to 8 vehicle

Once a company’s vehicles fit the requirements, they can send in a permit request, wait for approval, and then unleash their autonomous vehicles to the streets of California.

Companies with Vested Interests in Autonomous Vehicles in California

This testing period brings fertile grounds for growing companies and larger companies looking to expand their services and plant the seeds of self-driving vehicles and bring its normalcy into fruition as time goes on and technology improves.

Big player companies:

  • Alphabet’s Waymo (a Google subsidiary)
    • Latent Logic
  • Uber
  • General Motors
  • Amazon’s Aurora
  • TuSimple (a Chinese company)
  • Nuro

From this list you can see that calling these companies, “the big players,” can be seen as an understatement with company giants like Amazon, Google, and the Chinese company, Sina. These light-duty autonomous vehicle permits allow these companies to extend their services to remove the middle-man, the human, who raises problems with pay and performance unlike a self-designed robot vehicle. Once in the industry, these companies will grow even larger and have greater control over consumer habits.

Currently, about 65 companies and 670 autonomous vehicles already have the license. Nuro, a self-delivery service startup, already has licenses and pilot tests in other states like Arizona and Texas and have recently applied for a permit for California. Interestingly enough, Nuro, was started by Jiajun Zhu who was one of the original founders of Google’s Waymo.

Though these powerful countries will dictate how consumers will receive their services, there is also ample room for competition – opening the door to uncharted legislation pertaining to human-less vehicles.

The Future of Autonomous Vehicles

As technology continues to integrate more and more into daily lives, companies, governments, and consumers alike must deal with potential problems never faced before.

Delivery services can see a boom in the market as urban populations grow and spread to the suburbs. And ride-hailing services like Uber may try their hand at autonomous vehicles themselves. The possibilities are endless.

In theory, autonomous vehicles are a good solution – what can a robot with only one mission mishandle on the road? But solving one problem can open more problems. In this case, it’s which companies will make it to the top and provide this “necessary” service to those who can afford it. As we enter the new decade, we can see the reality unfold as it happens.