Alphabet’s autonomous vehicle division, Waymo, has received a permit to operate its cars on Californian public roads without a driver at the wheel. Previously part of Google, now Waymo is growing more rapidly as a separate unit. It has become the first company to win approval to test self-driving cars publicly in California.
The driving areas for the autonomous vehicles will include Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto. Alphabet is well acquainted with the roads in these regions, so it expects the test to run smoothly.
The green light was given by the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Waymo had been waiting for this since its permit application was submitted in April, shortly after new regulations make it easier for self-driving cars to be put on the roads in California.
Initially, the autonomous vehicles will only be boarded by Waymo employees, but Alphabet is planning to include the general public as well in trips. Waymo driverless cars have already been deployed in Arizona for nearly a year. Rumors say the company’s first paid autonomous taxi service in the world is due to launch in Phoenix soon.
Waymo is allowed to run its self-driving cars either during day or night, on either urban or rural roads, in fog and light rain. The cars can also drive on the highway with a speed limit of 65 mph.
According to California DMV director, Jean Shiomoto, having autonomous vehicles operating on public roads is a milestone that the state has been working toward for several years. “We will continue to keep the public’s safety in mind as this technology evolves”, Shiomoto said.
In May, Waymo ordered 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans from FCA to continue its autonomous fleet expansion, and also bought 20,000 Jaguar I-Pace all-electric performance SUVs from the British automaker this summer. The company’s serious progress in self-driving technology has been further proven at the beginning of last month when it announced that it has crossed 10 million autonomous driving miles across 25 cities in the US.