Robotaxi companies in California allowed to charge for their services

On Tuesday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved two new programmes addressing autonomous vehicles.

The nascent automated vehicle technology industry has tried to convince the CPUC for months that it is necessary to allow operators to provide and charge a fare for shared rides.

As long as they are compliant with the government’s approval process, robotaxi companies in California can now charge for their services.

However, this could introduce significant delays in deployments, as the process tends to be rather bureaucratic in nature.

Annabel Chang, Waymo’s head of policy in California, is pleased with the decision, adding that this agency action was long-awaited.

Waymo One, the firm’s autonomous ride-hailing service, is expected to come to California soon.

Of course, this will not happen overnight – every robotaxi operator that applies will need to obtain the proper permits and meet several reporting requirements.

Shared rides are not a prerequisite to apply.

Every participating company, however, will have to come forward with a safety plan in order to get approved.

Furthermore, they will be asked to provide reports with aggregated and anonymised information on a quarterly basis.

This information will include:

  • Pick-up and drop-off locations for individual trips
  • Availability and volume information regarding wheelchair-accessible rides
  • Service levels to disadvantaged communities
  • Miles travelled
  • Passenger miles travelled
  • Fuel type used by the vehicles

Any company that wishes to take part will be asked to submit an application in the form of a ‘Tier 3’ advice letter.

This, however, has been met with criticism, with self-driving vehicle firm Cruise claiming that the Tier 3 process conflicts with the state’s other goals related to emissions reduction, safety matters and transportation.

Being required to obtain permits from both the CPUC and the DMV could result in the process being delayed for more than two years.

Cruise said that considering the urgency of the need, this would take far too long.