Bert Kaufman, head of corporate and regulatory affairs, says that “This is a really, really significant milestone as we head towards commercial launch, which we have stated is toward the end of 2020". Until now, different companies’ AV testing on California roads has only carried employees or test participants. Still, these vehicles remain under human oversight with safety drivers able to take over, and it is only Waymo that so far has a permit to test without safety drivers in Arizona. Zoox has mostly been operating away from public light so far, but obtaining this groundbreaking permit will probably change that.
As mentioned in our previous articles, the state of California is somewhat stricter than for example Arizona when it comes to permits and demand for continuous reporting. Striking a balance between testing opportunities and limiting risk is crucial in these early days of AVs, and a tough question is how open we should be to the “learning by doing” type of testing in real traffic. The safety concerns are evident, but one could also argue that we should go through great lengths to make sure AV technology becomes mature and widely deployed as quickly as possible and that every delay is resulting in a failure to prevent a certain number of road accidents .
With this being said, we are perhaps not really ready to accept (any) safety risks caused by AVs. In the above case, allowing public use is perhaps less about actual safety and more about shifting focus towards perceived safety, rider comfort and overall service design, all crucial for user acceptance and experience.
Written by Victor Malmsten Lundgren, RISE Viktoria.