Waymo Urges California to Adopt Autonomous Delivery Vehicle Rules

Proposed California regulations for autonomous delivery vehicles received broad support from Waymo and others at a California Department of Motor Vehicles hearing Thursday. But the Teamsters union expressed concern that such vehicles will replace stable middle-class jobs at delivery companies.

Others believe the regulations could create lucrative technology and vehicle-support jobs.

“We see this as a job creator for the state,” said Judy Kruger, spokeswoman at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Kruger estimated the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles will generate $556 billion in spending by 2027.

The DMV proposal governs the testing and deployment of autonomous delivery trucks on public roads. The regulations allow companies to obtain permits to operate light autonomous trucks of less than 10,001 pounds. They could not charge a delivery fee.

‘GAINING MOMENTUM’

“Small, self-driving delivery trucks fit a business model that is gaining momentum,” the DMV said.

Autonomous delivery truck manufacturers are testing in other states because California lacks regulations, the agency said.

Waymo AV

Waymo’s autonomous vehicle. A company spokesman said California’s DMV should “expeditiously finalize” its proposed regulations that would allow light-duty AV testing in the state. (Photo: Waymo)

The DMV should “expeditiously finalize” the proposed rules, said George Ivanov, a Waymo public policy manager. Waymo is Google’s self-driving vehicle company.

Waymo launched a self-driving ride-hailing service called Waymo One in Phoenix, Ariz., last year. It also is testing self-driving class 8 heavy-duty trucks in Atlanta. Those tests soon will expand to Arizona.

‘SEVERE CONSTRAINT’

The California “prohibition on testing fully autonomous vehicles over 10,001 pounds is continuing to be a severe constraint on advancing the technology for use in this state,” Ivanov said. He also urged the DMV to finish rulemaking for testing heavy-duty autonomous trucks in the state.

The Teamsters was the only group to oppose the proposed regulations.

“We believe that this proposal is unnecessary, costly and potentially dangerous,” said Matt Broad, a Teamsters spokesman. “Our union is troubled that the regulator of the driving public is so concerned with observing and implementing business models as opposed to the safety of drivers and passengers in California.”

Broad said the union is worried about jobs such as the 100,000 UPS drivers in California. They have “high-paid, stable, middle-class jobs,” he said. “We fear with the deployment of autonomous vehicles, our drivers may be automated out of the work force.”

HEAVY SUPPORT

Other speakers either expressed full support for the new rules or asked for minor revisions.

Nuro is developing a light-duty autonomous vehicle designed for last-mile goods delivery. The Mountain View, Calif., robotics company is running tests in Arizona and Texas.

Nuro light-duty AV

Nuro’s light-duty autonomous vehicle.
(Photo: Nuro)

It doesn’t test in California because the state lacks appropriate regulations, said Nuro spokesman Tim Valderrama.

“We encourage the department to move quickly to finalize these proposed regulations,” Valderrama said. That will allow Nuro to start deliveries in California, he said.

Government agencies also presented their views at the hearing.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency wants to make sure autonomous delivery vehicles can stop and park at a curb safely, said Katie Angotti, an agency policy analyst.

Curbside parking problems have contributed to hundreds of bicycle crashes in San Francisco, Angotti said.

The San Francisco agency and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation made a joint recommendation. They asked that autonomous delivery vehicles display information that allows the public to report safety incidents to the DMV.

The DMV’s next step is to review the comments to determine if it needs to change the proposed rules. The department plans to issue by the end of this year.

Alan Adler May 29, 2019
Daimler Trucks has created a global organization to work toward its goal of putting highly automated trucks on U.S. roads within a decade.

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