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Waymo seeks permission to test fully driverless cars in California

Waymo seeks permission to test fully driverless cars in California


Human-free driving in the Golden State

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has received a second application to test fully driverless vehicles on public roads, and the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the applicant is Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet.

Waymo is already testing fully driverless cars with no human safety driver behind the wheel on public roads in Arizona, so it doesn’t come as a huge shock that the company would be interested in performing similar tests on its home turf in California. A spokesperson for Waymo confirmed the application to the Chronicle. A DMV spokesperson acknowledged a second application has been received but declined to name either company until their approval.

California began accepting applications for fully driverless testing permits on April 2nd after a rule change opened the door for companies wishing to test their autonomous vehicles on public roads. Among the many provisions, the new rules would allow autonomous cars without steering wheels, foot pedals, mirrors, and human drivers behind the wheel to be tested on its roads.

California is an obvious hotbed for autonomous vehicle testing, so changes made to the state’s rules governing these tests are followed closely by companies like General Motors, Waymo, and Uber that are developing fleets of self-driving cars for public use. There are currently 50 companies testing nearly 300 autonomous vehicles that are licensed with the DMV, officials said.

Waymo says it is the only company to have fully driverless vehicles on the road today. Last month, a fatal crash in Arizona involving a self-driving Uber vehicle sent shockwaves through the tech and auto industries, raising questions about the safety surrounding this technology and the permissiveness of states like Arizona to welcome the testing. Unlike Arizona, though, California has permitting and disclosure policies in place surrounding self-driving cars.