How California Is Ensuring Safety in the Autonomous Vehicle Market

Serena Aburahma
· 4 min read
The California DMV developed the Autonomous Vehicle Deployment (AVD) program to not only alleviate people’s
safety concerns with driverless vehicles
but also regulate the
autonomous vehicle

What should you know about the AVD program?

Manufacturers must follow the difficult and time-consuming AVD program guidelines before releasing
cars onto California roads. The program requires manufacturers to have three permits before they publicly release completely autonomous vehicles.
The AVD’s goal is to ensure the
safety and efficiency of autonomous vehicles
before they interact with the public, and only one company has gotten so far.
The only autonomous vehicle to be approved by the DMV and publicly released.

The different permits in the AVD program

The California DMV website shows that the AVD program has 3 different permits: "
Testing with a Driver
," "
Driverless Testing
," and "
Each permit is essentially a different tier for an autonomous vehicle. The vehicle’s tier depends on how far along the development of that car is and the financial resources of the manufacturer.

Testing with a driver

The first permit is part of the Autonomous Vehicle Tester (AVT) Program. This program requires a human driver who can take control of the vehicle at any moment.
"Testing with a Driver" is the
permit that has an electronic system to transfer files and no application fee. Out of the three, this permit is the easiest to obtain, but there are still a lot of requirements that have to be met to qualify for it.
Manufacturers have to provide
collision reporting
, apply for an additional program, provide a driver training program outline, and much more.

Driverless testing

Between this permit and the "Testing with a Driver" permit, the requirements are pretty much the same except for a few key details which can be found in the
application checklist
There is a $3,600 non-refundable annual fee for this permit, and it only covers a certain amount of vehicles and drivers. If a manufacturer wants to have more drivers and vehicles, there’s an additional fee for that.
The process of getting this permit takes more time and is a little more difficult because all required documents must be mailed.


To get the "Deployment" permit, manufacturers have to pay an annual, nonrefundable application fee of $3,275. The documentation for this permit can be emailed or mailed which makes the application process easier and more efficient.
However, this permit has an application checklist with stricter requirements than the other two, including a "description of any commonly-occurring or restricted conditions" and "how the vehicle is designed to react when it is outside of its operation design domain" and so on.

Who is the only permit holder in the "Deployment" phase?

The number of manufacturers holding these permits go from 54 for the "Testing with a Driver" permit, to eight for the "Driverless Testing" permit, to one for the "Deployment" permit.
Nuro is the only company to have gotten the "Deployment" permit. It is a brand most people haven’t heard about, and part of that could be because of its deployment being restricted to only a few areas in California.
Nuro’s vehicles do not hold passengers. Nuro’s purpose is to simply deliver packages, and that’s what made it easier for them to get this permit.
Even though Nuro isn’t a household name, it’s a big deal in the car and tech community because it’s the first and only autonomous vehicle to operate on public streets. And because of that, you could say that this one little vehicle was the one to rule them all… at least for now.

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