Waymo, Google’s former self-driving venture that is now a business under alphabet, has been given permission by California regulators to transport passengers in its robotaxis, TechCrunch has learned. The approval is a milestone for the company as it begins to ramp up toward a commercial service.
The California Public Utilities Commission granted Waymo a permit to participate in the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot. Waymo confirmed the approval. A statement from a Waymo spokesperson provides some hints as to how and where the company intends to use this permit.
“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.”
The approval from CPUC is different than the permits issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test self-driving vehicles in the state. More than 60 companies have a permit to test in the state.
Instead, this gives Waymo permission to use its self-driving vehicles — which are the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivans and eventually the Jaguar I-PACE electric vehicle — to transport people. The company still faces certain restrictions. It can’t charge for rides and the vehicles must have safety drivers behind the wheel. Waymo will also have to provide reports to CPUC with information on total passenger miles traveled and safety protocols.