California announced a new rule on Friday, which would allow the testing of light-duty autonomous trucks on public roads. The law is proposed by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, which outlines a permitting process for companies wishing to test autonomous trucks.
The guidelines outlined that — the rule would only apply to driverless trucks weighing less than 10,001 pounds. That means, only Class 1 and 2 trucks, which include utility vans, pickup trains, minivans, and step vans. All trucks in Class 3 to 8 which include semi-trucks, walk-in delivery trucks, heavy-duty construction vehicles, and buses would not be allowed under this law.
California is a focus center for autonomous vehicle testing, so changes made to the state’s rules governing these tests are followed closely by companies, like General Motors, Alphabet’s Waymo, and Uber that are developing fleets of self-driving cars for public use. The state has reportedly 62 companies permitted and 678 self-driving vehicles that are licensed with the DMV. Moreover, Waymo is the only company with a permit to test fully driverless vehicles on public roads.
This new rule appears to be a small step toward allowing heavy-duty semi-trucks with autonomous equipment to be tested on public roads. Waymo has been testing its self-driving tractor trailers in Atlanta. Daimler and TuSimple are other companies working toward a fully driverless truck.
The DMV’s new rule would seem to open the door to companies that are already testing much-smaller delivery vehicles, such as Nuro, Udelv, and Ford — though these companies are already permitted under the state’s main AV testing program.