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California DMV proposes rules for testing self-driving delivery vehicles on public roads

It would apply to delivery vehicles weighing under 10,001 pounds.

A vehicle like Ford's faux-autonomous Postmates delivery van would likely qualify as a motortruck (if it were actually autonomous), given its primary purpose is to deliver goods, not people.


Right now, there are a number of companies developing and testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in California, but the way the laws are written, groups are not allowed to test light-duty delivery vehicles. Thanks to a new proposal, that could soon change.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles last week issued a Notice of Proposed Action, signaling its intent to alter the rules surrounding the testing of autonomous light-duty delivery vehicles on public roads.

It all comes down to the "motortruck," which California law defines as a motor vehicle "designed, used or maintained primarily for the transportation of property." Delivery vehicles weighing less than 10,001 pounds are included in this definition, which is a segment of vehicle currently barred from AV testing or deployment. The proposed change to California law would flip things around and clear these vehicles for public-road use.

Before anything is set in stone, though, the public must be allowed to comment on the proposed changes to the law. The public comment period is now open, and people will be able to submit written comments to the DMV until May 27. Following that, the DMV will host a public hearing in Sacramento on May 30, where citizens can give their input in person. The proposed changes are posted on the DMV's website, in the same area that discusses already-established autonomous testing programs.

The DMV notes that 61 manufacturers are currently testing AVs with test drivers on California roads, and 62 companies have the permits required to do so. If a company wants to ditch the safety driver and operate in a driverless manner, it must secure a special permit within California's AV testing program. Thus far, Waymo is the only company to receive a permit for testing fully driverless vehicles in California.