Uber AV vehicle is seen during a test drive in San Francisco. (Aleah Fajardo/2016 Special to S.F. Examiner)
California, the state that is stringent with its Driverless/Autonomous Vehicle regulations, is one week away from allowing AV's to drive totally driverless on public roads. Yet, for some reason, none of the AV companies that are testing AV's have applied for a license to drive in the state of California.
April 2nd is the official date when it will be legal for a truly driverless car to roll on the roads of California; this means that from April 2nd, AV's won't need a safety driver behind the wheel. Many companies developing AV technology, and even Uber that recently went through a fatal accident in Arizona, and have been suspended from driving in Arizona, have not yet applied for a license to drive in California.
You would think that all AV companies would have registered and are waiting at the starting line to begin their testing immediately. Even Uber, after going through the accident, would want another chance to test fully autonomous driving.
The DMV has confirmed that no one has yet applied for a license, and it might not be so surprising after the fatal accident of Elaine Herzberg in Arizona, that is the defining reason that the AV companies are keeping a low profile.
AV companies do not need to be on the streets on the first day, but the longer they delay their registration, the longer it will be for them to start testing their vehicles in the more complex driving conditions of cities such as SF and LA.
DMV spokesperson Jessica Gonzalez stated that companies will need to apply and also expect that even if the application is complete, companies will still need to factor in a number of issues that will be addressed and will be asked to answer more questions based on their application answers.
In the meantime, city officials such as the Mayor of SF, Mark Farrell have been in discussions with both the various AV companies such as Uber, Lyft, Waymo, GM Cruise, Zoox and Phantom Auto, together with first responders including the police and fire department to discuss safety issues.
As of March 6, DMV had received 59 reports of crashes involving autonomous vehicles in California, with reports as far back as 2014. The most recent of those crashes was on Feb. 20, when a GM Cruise autonomous vehicle turning left in the Financial District was "slightly clipped" by another vehicle turning left in the opposite direction, according to DMV records.
CIO of Zoox (Chief Innovation officer) Mark Rosekind, was Obama's head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, stated that the accident has proven that AV companies are now questioning their capabilities for real-time driving, he said "What happened … basically shows you this is not ready for prime time."