This is reportedly the first time that the state has allowed such tests – that is, vehicles operating without a human test driver sitting in the driver’s seat – on public roads. The permit, says the company, is the result of new DMV regulations that took effect in April, which allow companies to apply for fully driverless testing within carefully defined limits.
Initially, the company will be limiting its testing to parts of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto – an area it knows well and which includes the headquarters for Waymo and its parent company, Alphabet. Mountain View, says the company, is home to more than a dozen autonomous vehicle companies, and has supported safe testing for years.
The company’s permit includes day and night testing on city streets, rural roads, and highways with posted speed limits of up to 65 miles per hour, as well as operation in fog and light rain conditions. Before expanding to other areas, the company says it will both notify the new communities and submit a request to the state’s DMV.
Looking ahead, the company sees itself offering driverless ride services at some point.
“Our first driverless rides will be for members of the Waymo team,” says the company in a blog post announcing the permit. “Eventually, we’ll create opportunities for members of the public to experience this technology, as we’ve done in Arizona with our early rider program.”
The company’s autonomous ride-hailing service in the metro Phoenix area is expected to launch before the end of the year.
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