A recent AAA study revealed that, although the pandemic has resulted in fewer cars on the road, traffic deaths have surged.  Speeding, alcohol-impairment, and reckless driving has caused the highest levels of crashes seen in decades, and the National Safety Council estimates a 9% increase in roadway fatalities from 2020.  Autonomous vehicles (AVs) have the potential to increase traffic safety, and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) just took a step to advance their commercialization and deployment.

On February 28, 2022, the CPUC issued its first “Drivered Deployment” permits to Cruise LLC and Waymo LLC, allowing for passenger service in AVs with a safety driver present.  The CPUC uses the term “drivered” to refer to AVs with safety drivers present, while those without safety drivers are referred to as “driverless”.  The recently issued Drivered Deployment permits allow both companies to charge passenger fares and offer shared rides.  According to a press release from the CPUC, the permits allow Cruise to “provide Drivered Deployment service on selected public roads in San Francisco between the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour,” and for Waymo to “provide Drivered Deployment service in designated parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties at any time of day or night at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour.”  Neither company may operate during heavy fog or heavy rain.

The Drivered Deployment program is one of four CPUC-approved AV passenger service programs.  As demonstrated in the chart below, each program involves four core features with varying permissions across the board: (1) whether carriers must hold a California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) AV Testing Permit; (2) whether a safety driver must be present in the vehicle; (3) whether fare collection is permitted; and (4) whether shared rides between passengers of different parties are permitted.

  Carriers Hold CA DMV AV Testing Permit? Operation Without Safety Driver? Fare Collection Permitted? Shared Rides Permitted?
Drivered Pilot X X X
Driverless Pilot X X
Drivered Deployment X
Driverless Deployment

Looking ahead, Cruise submitted an application for a Driverless Deployment permit, the disposition of which is currently pending before the Commission.  This permit would also allow for fare collection and shared rides, but would permit operation without a safety driver present.  The CPUC Commissioner recognizes that allowing for fare collection is an “important and measured step toward the commercialization and expansion of the [AV] service.”  We see future opportunities for engagement with the CPUC on these issues, as the Commission anticipates hosting future public workshops to review the AV Deployment programs.

This blog post is a part of our Connected and Automated Vehicles Series.  For more on connected and autonomous vehicles and our team, please visit Covington’s CAV Toolkit.

Photo of Jennifer Johnson Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson is a partner specializing in communications, media and technology matters who serves as co-chair of Covington’s global and multi-disciplinary Internet of Things (IoT) group. She represents and advises content distributors, broadcast companies, trade associations, and other media and technology entities on…

Jennifer Johnson is a partner specializing in communications, media and technology matters who serves as co-chair of Covington’s global and multi-disciplinary Internet of Things (IoT) group. She represents and advises content distributors, broadcast companies, trade associations, and other media and technology entities on a wide range of issues. Jennifer has more than two decades of experience advising clients in the communications, media and technology sectors, and has served as a co-chair for these practices for more than 15 years. On IoT issues, she collaborates with Covington’s global, multi-disciplinary team to assist companies navigating the complex statutory and regulatory constructs surrounding this evolving area, including legal issues with respect to connected and autonomous vehicles, internet connected devices, smart ecosystems, and other IoT products and services.

Jennifer assists clients in developing and pursuing strategic business and policy objectives before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress and through transactions and other business arrangements. She regularly advises clients on FCC regulatory matters and advocates frequently before the FCC. Jennifer has extensive experience negotiating content acquisition and distribution agreements for media and technology companies, including program distribution agreements with cable, satellite, and telco companies, network affiliation and other program rights agreements for television companies, and agreements providing for the aggregation and distribution of content on over-the-top app-based platforms. She also assists investment clients in structuring, evaluating, and pursuing potential investments in media and technology companies.

Photo of Olivia Dworkin Olivia Dworkin

Olivia Dworkin minimizes regulatory and litigation risks for clients in the pharmaceutical, food, consumer brands, digital health, and medical device industries through strategic advice on FDA compliance issues.
Olivia defends her clients against such litigation as well, representing them through various stages of…

Olivia Dworkin minimizes regulatory and litigation risks for clients in the pharmaceutical, food, consumer brands, digital health, and medical device industries through strategic advice on FDA compliance issues.
Olivia defends her clients against such litigation as well, representing them through various stages of complex class actions and product liability matters. She maintains an active pro bono practice that focuses on gender-based violence, sexual harassment, and reproductive rights.

Prior to joining Covington, Olivia was a fellow at the University of Michigan Veterans Legal Clinic, where she gained valuable experience as the lead attorney successfully representing clients at case evaluations, mediations, and motion hearings. At Michigan Law, Olivia served as Online Editor of the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law, president of the Trial Advocacy Society, and president of the Michigan Law Mock Trial Team. She excelled in national mock trial competitions, earning two Medals for Excellence in Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers and being selected as one of the top sixteen advocates in the country for an elite, invitation-only mock trial tournament.