Autonomous Vehicle Definitions

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These key terms and definitions will help you learn more about autonomous vehicle technology and gain a better understanding of autonomous vehicle testing and deployment in California.

  • Autonomous technology: Technology, including a combination of hardware and software, remote and/or on-board, that has the capability to drive a vehicle without active physical control or monitoring by a human operator.
  • Autonomous mode: The status of vehicle operation where autonomous technology performs the dynamic driving task, with or without a human actively supervising the autonomous technology’s performance of the dynamic driving task. An autonomous vehicle is operating or driving in autonomous mode when it is operated or driven with the autonomous technology engaged.
  • Autonomous test vehicle: A vehicle equipped with autonomous technology that, when engaged, performs the dynamic driving task. An autonomous test vehicles requires a human test driver or a remote operator to continuously supervise the vehicle’s performance.
  • Dynamic driving task: All of the real-time functions required to operate a vehicle in on-road traffic, excluding election of final and intermediate destinations. This includes, without limitation:
    • Object and event detection, recognition, and classification.
    • Object and event response.
    • Maneuver planning.
    • Steering, turning, lane keeping, and lane changing, including providing the appropriate signal for the lane change or turn maneuver.
    • Acceleration and deceleration.
  • Operational design domain:The specific operating domain(s) in which an automated function or system is designed to properly operate, including but not limited to:
    • Geographic area.
    • Roadway type.
    • Speed range.
    • Environmental conditions (weather, daytime/nighttime, etc.).
    • Other domain constraints.
  • Operator: The person who is seated in the driver’s seat of an autonomous vehicle. If there is no person in the driver’s seat, this causes the autonomous technology to engage.
  • Manufacturer: A manufacturer of autonomous technology defined in Vehicle Code section 38750 (a) (5). This includes:
    • A vehicle manufacturer as defined in Vehicle Code section 672 that produces an autonomous vehicle from raw materials or new basic components.
    • A person as defined in Vehicle Code section 470 who modifies any vehicle by installing autonomous technology.
  • Passenger: An occupant of a vehicle who has no role in the operation of that vehicle when the autonomous technology is engaged. A passenger may summon a vehicle or input a destination, but does not engage the technology, monitor the vehicle, or drive or operate the vehicle. A member of the public may ride as a passenger in an autonomous test vehicle if there are no fees charged to the passenger or compensation received by the manufacturer.
  • Remote operator: A natural person who:
    • Possesses the proper class of license for the type of test vehicle being operated.
    • Is not seated in the driver’s seat of the vehicle.
    • Engages and monitors the autonomous vehicle.
    • Is able to communicate with occupants in the vehicle through a communication link. 

      A remote operator may also have the ability to perform the dynamic driving task for the vehicle or cause the vehicle to achieve a minimal risk condition.
  • Testing: Operation of an autonomous vehicle on public roads by employees, contractors, or designees of a manufacturer for the purpose of assessing, demonstrating, and validating the autonomous technology’s capabilities.
  • Deployment: Operation of an autonomous vehicle on public roads by members of the public who are not employees, contractors, or designees of a manufacturer or for purposes of sale, lease, providing transportation services for a fee, or otherwise making the vehicle commercially available outside of a testing program.

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