Califiornia's public roads are now open to self-driving delivery vehicles with no safety driver, as well as autonomous passenger cars.
The state's Department of Motor Vehicles implemented new regulations this week to account for driverless delivery vehicles which weigh no more than 10,001 lbs. This includes modified cars with safety drivers behind the wheel, as well as purpose-built autonomous delivery vehicles.
The latter includes vehicles like those built by Nuro, the driverless delivery vehicle startup which has already worked with Domino's and Walmart to bring fresh food to customers' doors.
California is classing the vehicles as "light-duty", which excludes the larger autonomous trucks in development by companies like Waymo. Aside from those larger vehicles, the new rules mean companies can apply for a permit to run a wide range of driverless cargo and delivery vehicles on California roads.
But, before any company can run their vehicle on public streets they'll have to prove to the DMV that the vehicle works under controlled conditions, and with a backup driver either behind the wheel, or in remote control of the vehicle.
If companies wish to run completely driverless tests - with no one behind the wheel - they must notify authorities in advance, and demonstrate that they have a live control link between the vehicle and a remote operator.
Vehicles weighing up to 10,001 pounds are eligible
They must also have a "law enforcement interaction plan", and certify that the vehicle meets current industry standards "to help defend against, detect and respond to cyber-attacks, unauthorized intrusions or false vehicle control commands."
It is interesting to see the California DMV pay particular attention to the threat cybercrime might have on autonomous vehicles, as this isn't something the makers of these vehicles have addressed in detail before.
Nuro, which is already running public road tests of its autonomous grocery delivery vehicles in Arizona and Texas, welcomed the news. "Today marks an exciting moment for the future of local commerce in California," the startup said, adding: "We applaud the DMV for completing this regulatory update and unlocking a valuable new service that promises to reduce the number of shopping errands made by Californians every year for groceries, hot food, and other local produce."