Waymo can now provide driverless rides to passengers in San Francisco. On Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said it granted the Alphabet-owned Waymo a permit to participate in its driverless pilot program, which lets autonomous vehicle (AV) companies transport passengers in test AVs without anyone at the wheel.
Waymo still isn’t allowed to charge for these rides, though. The state of California requires companies to obtain a series of incremental permits from both the CPUC and the Department of Motor Vehicles before they’re able to charge for driverless rides. Waymo just needs to secure the driverless deployment permit from the CPUC to fully launch its robotaxi service, as it already received clearance from the DMV to charge for driverless rides earlier this week.
Waymo has been testing its vehicles in San Francisco for several years and started charging for rides with a human safety driver present in March. The company’s also been approved to test its AVs with passengers in Los Angeles as part of its plans to expand in the city and has been working to expand its fully driverless robotaxi services in Phoenix.
Now that Waymo’s been approved for driverless rides, this means the company’s AVs can pick up and drop off passengers in San Francisco, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale. Waymo says it’s opening up driverless rides to the public in the “coming weeks.”
According to the CPUC, Waymo’s rides can occur at any time during the day or night, and its vehicles can travel at speeds up to 65mph. And while AVs typically struggle to perform in poor weather conditions, Waymo’s working to address this by collecting data about different conditions and then using that to inform its driverless system.
Waymo is the second AV company to join California’s driverless pilot program. The GM-backed Cruise gained approval from both the CPUC and California DMV last year before rolling out its San Francisco-based robotaxi service in June.