Waymo —formerly the Google self-driving car project – has officially been granted permission by the state of California to use its pioneering robotaxis to transport passengers (albeit their employees. Waymo, is a self-driving technology development company and possibly the most active player in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles globally. It is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. and originated as a project of Google before it became a stand-alone subsidiary in December 2016. In April 2017, Waymo started a limited trial of a self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona and changes and updates since then have been frequent and on a large scale.
It has now been officially announced (as released by Tech Radar) that Waymo, has been given permission by California regulators to transport passengers in its robotaxis all across California as a beginning. The approval of their plan is widely considered a milestone in the industry as well as for the company as it looks to move more towards offering a commercial service.
The California Public Utilities Commission granted Waymo a permit on Tuesday the 2nd of July to participate in the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot. Waymo confirmed the approval. The first ever such permit was granted to Zoox (for a period of 3 years) and now Waymo is also able to their services to passengers in a world-first.
California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has already granted permits to 60 companies to test autonomous vehicles but previously had not allowed passenger pickup and transport. Now, with the launch of the Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Safety Pilot, self-driving car companies can apply for permits to carry passengers., something Waymo was quick to utilise.
Waymo, did release a statement in regards to the above permit as well as potential uses of it saying: “The CPUC allows us to participate in their pilot program, giving Waymo employees the ability to hail our vehicles and bring guests on rides within our South Bay territory,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “This is the next step in 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.”
As a starting stage, and in California only, the company will give rides to Waymo employees and their guests within its limited service area in the South Bay, which includes the neighbourhoods of Mountain View, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto.
Last year, Waymo became the first company to be granted permission to operate fully driverless cars without drivers behind the wheel on public roads in California. Until now, no other company has been given such permission to conduct fully driverless testing other than Waymo, signifying their continuous efforts in the industry and deviation to monetising their services. Waymo autonomous cars drove about 1.3 million miles on public roads in California in 2018, according to the DMV.
Last but not least, Waymo only recently also revealed that it is in the early stages of launching its own ride-hailing service, which it hopes will attract users with incentives like free Wi-Fi and a fully customizable user ride experience. Earlier in the year, it also launched a factory in Detroit dedicated to mass-producing its self-driving cars.
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