On Tuesday, March 6, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and GoMentum Station announced that permission was granted and testing of shared autonomous vehicles on public roads will begin at Bishop Ranch, the largest mixed-use business community in Northern California located in the city of San Ramon. This is the first time the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has allowed a shared autonomous vehicle to travel on public roads in the state.
CCTA is leading a pilot demonstration project testing electric, low-speed, multi-passenger autonomous vehicles manufactured by EasyMile, that are not equipped with a steering wheel, brake pedal, or accelerator. The California State Legislature passed pioneering legislation in 2016, Assembly Bill 1592, to allow for the pilot program. After successful testing at the GoMentum Station autonomous vehicle proving grounds in Concord, California and in parking lots at Bishop Ranch, CCTA is advancing to the third phase of testing. CCTA received permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in October 2017 and permission from the California DMV in January 2018, to operate the EasyMile shuttle on public streets within the business park.
“We will look back on the issuance of this permit as a turning point for autonomous vehicle technology in the great state of California,” said CCTA Executive Director Randell Iwasaki. “It is a huge step forward for safely developing a solution to the challenges that prevent people from using public transportation and will transform how we travel in Contra Costa and beyond.”
“We are excited to celebrate this milestone with CCTA and Bishop Ranch,” said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto. “The California DMV has been working for years to bring this groundbreaking technology to California’s roadways while ensuring safety of the motoring public.”
Shared autonomous shuttles offer safe, accessible service that could soon provide first- and last-mile transit solutions in office parks, campuses, suburbs, and town centers. Zero-emission, low-speed autonomous shuttles have the potential to ease congestion, reduce harmful emissions, and provide safe and affordable access to transportation hubs throughout Contra Costa County.
“Bishop Ranch has always been a site for innovation in Northern California,” said Sunset Development CEO Alexander Mehran, Sr. “By granting approval to test EasyMile shuttles on the public roads which bisect through the Bishop Ranch business community, the DMV is enabling us to continue to support innovation that stands to benefit the entire region.”
As CCTA moves to the third phase of testing, members of the general public will not be able to ride the shared autonomous vehicles on public streets. The vehicles are currently staffed by trained testers. It is anticipated that during the upcoming year, additional predetermined testers and evaluators chosen from employees of various employers within Bishop Ranch will be able to ride the vehicles as they traverse public streets within the business park.
The permission for the EasyMile shuttles from the California DMV is separate from their autonomous vehicle testing program that has been underway since 2014.