The state of California granted Zoox, Inc. permission to transport passengers in their self-driving cars.
California has been a state with lax regulations in relation to self-driving cars. Over sixty companies have permission to test autonomous vehicles in the state, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, they took a big step when they granted permission to Zoox to transport passengers in their autonomous cars.
Zoox received their permit under a pilot program that was launched in April by the California Public Utilities Commission.
Bert Kaufman, the head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Zoox said “This is a really, really significant milestone as we head towards commercial launch, which we have stated is toward the end of 2020.”
Nevertheless, there are some conditions stipulated that Zoox must comply with. First of all, they cannot charge for trips. Second, they must have a back-up driver in all cars.
Eventually, there will be a sister program that will allow for self-driving vehicles to transport passengers without a back-up driver. At the moment, Zoox is the only company operating and serving passengers under either program.
Sam Schwartz, the former NYC traffic commissioner, believes that self-driving cars will disrupt entire sectors of the economy.
“I think everybody is expecting fewer drivers, and that’s no surprise,” said Schwartz. “But it also means that there are probably going to be fewer repair shops. Autonomous vehicles lend themselves to fleet operations, especially if they’re going to be offering rides, as opposed to selling maximum vehicles, so car dealerships may disappear.”
Schwartz also indicated that while trucking companies may also suffer. The advertising sector, on the other hand, could thrive as former drivers could now divert their attention to the plentiful advertising on the roads.
While critics point to accidents like an autonomous Uber car killing a woman in Tempe, AZ and other ethical problems with these vehicles, proponents believe that with research self-driving cars can be much safer than human drivers.