Autonomous vehicle driving in South of Market

Photo by SFMTA Photography Department

San Francisco is the epicenter for autonomous vehicle (AV) deployment of commercial passenger services in the United States, and local officials have been advocating for regulators to address policy and data gaps in the rapidly evolving sector (see the Transportation Authority’s October AV hearing).

Assemblymember Ting Introduces AB 1777

In January, San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting (19th Assembly District), introduced Assembly Bill 1777 which would strengthen regulation of autonomous vehicles in key areas.

The bill intends to ensure enforcement of autonomous vehicle operators’ compliance with the state traffic code, allowing AV operators to be cited and fined for moving violations.

The bill would also require state regulators (California Public Utilities Commission and California Department of Motor Vehicles) to publish more AV data. Previously, the Transportation Authority’s ride hail sector studies and AV hearing identified existing gaps in what is requested, collected and published by regulators.

For example, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not require crash and other reporting from AV permit holders once they are approved to go from testing to commercial deployment. Testing permit holders are also only required to submit disengagement and mileage (VMT)  reports once a year, at a statewide level. DMV AV reports currently do not include a breakdown of AV data by jurisdiction, making it difficult to understand and evaluate AV performance at the local level. 

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), in turn, requires very detailed data reports from AV providers, but these data are disaggregated by permit type (drivered/driverless, testing/deployment) and not summarized by company. Though submitted annually to CPUC, the reports also are not fully accessible to the public (there are many redactions).

San Francisco Agencies Discuss AV Data Needs at Annual Meetings of the Transportation Research Board

In early January, the Transportation Authority’s Deputy Director for Technology, Data, and Analysis Joe Castiglione presented San Francisco’s perspectives on AV data gaps and research priorities at the annual meeting for the Transportation Research Board Vehicle-Highway Automation Committee. His presentation addressed the needs for more complete and transparent reporting on crash/disengagement events, total trips and vehicle miles of travel by AVs at the city level, as well as more comprehensive data on non-crash events such as AV malfunctions and first responder conflicts.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency colleagues Julia Friedlander and Viktoriya Wise also participated in the conference at the AV Forum and a City DOT Roundtable, sharing San Francisco’s experience and insights on the opportunity to shape AV deployment toward achieving local and statewide safety, equity and climate goals.
Finally, San Francisco agencies are collaborating on an AV Regulatory Framework Study, as requested by Board member Aaron Peskin, to illustrate what an incremental performance-based permitting approach might look like. The Study aims to inform state and federal regulatory agencies’ ongoing regulatory updates and policy work.