Waymo Approved to Test Self-Driving Vehicles on California Highways

Waymo’s fully self-driving Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan 5. Photo courtesy of Waymo.

Waymo will soon begin carrying passengers on California highways in a real-world test of its self-driving vehicles.

The company received a certificate as a “Charter-Party Carrier” from the California Public Utilities Commission on July 2, enabling it to provide riders with transportation (though not allowing it to charge them for it). So far the Sunshine State has approved four companies for such operations including two—Waymo and AutoX Technologies—who are allowed to use autonomous vehicles for round-trip sightseeing tours.

Waymo, a self-driving technology development company that was once a project of Google, is now a stand-alone subsidiaryof the Alphabet holding company—as is Google. The firm’s pilot program will reportedly be limited at first, serving just Waymo employees and guests in the neighborhoods around the firm’s Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters.

“This is the next step on 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,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Though they may be autonomous, the vehicles won’t actually be driverless. Each of the four firms is required to have an operator onboard though Waymo got an exemption so that the drivers involved do not necessarily have to be Waymo employees.

The other firms approved for similar on-the-road testing are:

AutoX Technologies of San Jose, Calif., which is working on a Robo-Taxi and Robo-Delivery service.

Pony.ai Inc., which got its California permit June 18 and a license to test autonomous cars in Beijing in July 2018. Pony is headquartered in Fremont, Calif.

Zoox, Inc., of Foster City, Calif., got its current testing permit in December 2018, the first company to win such approval in the state.