Waymo self-driving cars will transport California passengers

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Waymo self-driving cars now able to transport customers in California
Image: Waymo

Google’s self-driving vehicle initiative, Waymo, took another step toward making driverless transportation a part of daily life in the U.S.

More specifically, the company just acquired permission from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to transport passengers in its automated taxis.

According to a statement from Waymo, the authorization reportedly allows company employees to summon automated vehicles for guest transport in select areas of California’s South Bay.

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The rollout is part of the company’s “path to eventually expand and offer more Californians opportunities to access our self-driving technology.”

Though the cars will begin transporting some passengers, the robo-taxis won’t be commercially available for a while.

Waymo’s Commercial Service Evolution

Waymo started testing and training their autonomous cars in the state almost two years ago. These latest permits are a sure sign of progress. However, there’s more work to be done.

The company’s current permit restricts it from charging passengers for transportation and requires professional safety drivers to remain behind the wheel. On top of that, Waymo also needs to provide the CPUC with performance reports, including safety protocols, and passenger miles.

Judging by the success the company has already achieved elsewhere, Californians will undoubtedly access the firm’s services before long.

Expanding Self-Driving Regulations

California isn’t the first state to work with Waymo to bring a self-driving taxi service to its streets. The company initially tested a pilot for its self-driving program in Arizona in 2017. The service launched the next year commercially.

In fact, Waymo isn’t even the first entity to receive a self-driving vehicle road permit from the CPUC. The driverless transport startup Zoox accomplished that feat before everyone else. In December of 2018, the company secured a permit to test its automated vehicles. Since then, the CPUC has authorized over 60 other companies to operate driverless cars to some degree publicly.

However, Waymo’s new permit differs from these companies in notable ways. For example, Waymo’s clearance is the only one that currently allows the firm’s self-driving vehicle to use California’s state roads. Additionally, Waymo is uniquely allowed to hire third-party safety operators who undergo the proper company training to monitor their cars.

Moreover, aside from this latest permit, Waymo is the only company allowed to operate completely uncrewed vehicles on public roads. So, like in Arizona, there’s a good chance they’ll be the first to provide driverless transportation to California consumers officially.

But in any case, with 60 permits issued over the last couple years, self-driving vehicle services of all kinds will be commonplace soon enough.