The fledgling autonomous car industry is facing intense scrutiny right now, after two crashes last month involving an Uber-owned autonomous car and a semi-autonomous Tesla Model X ended with fatalities. Nevertheless, California is laying out a framework for companies to legally pick up passengers in driverless cars—without a safety operator behind the wheel—and ferry them around.
In February, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles OK’d driverless car testing to begin in the state. Until now, companies tested autonomous cars on public roads with a safety operator at the wheel, ready to take back control of the vehicle if necessary. Now, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates transportation companies in the state, has issued a proposal that would allow companies to give the public rides in a fully-driverless car.
Reuters explains how it works:
The commission said its proposed rules complement the existing DMV rules but provide additional protections for passengers.
The proposal, which is set to be voted on at the commission’s meeting next month, would clear the way for autonomous vehicle companies to do more testing and get the public more closely acquainted with driverless cars in a state that has closely regulated the industry.
The move comes as automakers and tech companies are facing intense skepticism over the capability of their self-driving cars. Following the Uber crash, the ride-hailing company suspended its autonomous driving tests. But General Motors and Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google, have pressed on, and both companies have plans to introduce driverless car services over the next year.
The California proposal would allow those companies to transport passengers in the state, but Reuters says the service must be free for now. They’ll also be required to file reports to regulators on the number of miles their vehicles travel, rides completed, and disabled passengers they’re serving, the news outlet reports.
The proposal is set to be voted on by the state commission at its board meeting next month.