The California Public Utilities Commission has granted Waymo a permit to participate in the state’s autonomous vehicle passenger service pilot program.
With the permit, Alphabet’s self-driving division can provide rides to Waymo employees and guests within a limited service area in South Bay, including the neighborhoods of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos hills, and Palo Alto. A human safety driver must remain behind the wheel at all times.
While California’s DMV has granted autonomous vehicle testing permits to more than 60 companies, Waymo is only the fourth to be given the go-ahead to participate in the service pilot program, joining Zoox, Autox Technologies and Pony.ai.
“This is the next step on our path to eventually expand and offer more Californians opportunities to access our self-driving technology, just as we have gradually done with Waymo One in Metro Phoenix,” a Waymo spokesperson said.
Waymo is the only company to be granted permission to test fully self-driving vehicles without human drives onboard in California’s public roads. The company is also operating an autonomous ride-hailing fleet in Phoenix, Arizona, with 400 volunteer test riders and a human safety driver behind the wheel in case anything goes wrong.
The Verge reports that Waymo has no defined timetable as to when it plans on launching a commercial self-driving ride-hailing service in the Golden State, though that is its final aim. Waymo’s fleet consists primarily of Chrysler Pacificas, though autonomous Jaguar I-Pace SUVs are slowly being introduced.