05 Jul Waymo Receives Permit to Participate in California’s Autono…
author: Michael Cheng
Waymo is steadily inching closer to commercializing transportation services powered by autonomous vehicles. The startup recently revealed it acquired a permit from the California California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to participate in a local testing program.
The permit is a hot ticket to the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot. Waymo’s presence would enable it to accrue more driverless miles on public roads within the state and potentially win over regulators in the process. Moreover, such activities could pave the way for the startup’s robo-taxi service, i.e. Waymo One.
Testing Permit Details
According to the guidelines of the testing permit, the company is allowed to deploy its fleet of driverless Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans in California. The autonomous vehicles may provide rides to passengers. However, it cannot charge a fare and a safety representative must be present inside the minivan. Initially, Waymo received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to test its autonomous fleet in private locations and tracks. To clarify, trials with the state’s DMV, which hosts roughly 60 companies, is separate from the pilot.
The current CPUC program’s focus goes a step further by taking trials to public roads and incorporating human passengers. For now, the service is only available to Waymo employees and a handful of selected individuals within the Silicon Valley area.
“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,” said a Waymo Spokesperson 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.”
Other participants in the CPUC pilot include the following businesses: Zoox Inc., Autox Technologies Inc. and Pony.ai Inc. Waymo’s CPUC testing permit is valid for three years. Last year, the company drove more than 1.3 million self-driving miles in California.
For various locations in Phoenix, the startup is allowed to carry out driverless transport services without a safety representative through Waymo One. Additionally, it can charge passengers for the rides. The company’s autonomous vehicles in the city may also be summoned using a mobile app. Waymo One successfully launched its services in 2018 and has been growing quickly.
In a move to streamline expansion, the startup has partnered with ride-hailing giant Lyft. The two parties are working together to provide self-driving rides in the Metro Phoenix area.
At the moment, there are 10 Waymo autonomous vehicles participating in Lyft’s fleet. Individuals interested in riding on one of the startup’s self-driving minivans may do so via the Lyft platform. Based on feedback from passengers, the service is being used for daily commutes to work, dropping off kids to school, errands and more.
“We’re committed to continuously improving our customer experience, and our partnership with Lyft will also give our teams the opportunity to collect valuable feedback,” said Waymo in an announcement.