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article imageWaymo to join California's autonomous vehicle passenger program

By Ken Hanly     Jul 3, 2019 in Technology
Google parent company Alphabet's driverless vehicle startup Waymo has been given a permit by the California Public Utilities Commission to participate in the state's autonomous vehicle passenger service program.
Three other companies are in the program
For the purpose of California's new program, riders cannot be charged for the tripand a safety driver must be behind the wheel at all times. Three other companies, Zoox, Autox Technologies and Ponyai are also in the project. The permit will be good for three years.
The program is separate from the state's autonomous vehicle testing program. That program has granted more than 60 companies permits from the Department of Motor Vehicles to test self-driving cars in the state.
No date for Waymo commercial ride hailing in California
Waymo already launched commercial ride hailing of autonomous vehicles in Phoenix, Arizona late in 2018. As a Verge article of December 5, 2018 announced: "Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Alphabet, launched its first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service here in the Phoenix suburbs on Wednesday — a momentous moment for the former Google self-driving project that has been working on the technology for almost a decade."
The Phoenix service serves about 400 test riders. Waymo also struck a deal with Lyft that allowed the ride-hailing company to add ten autonomous Waymo minivans to its Phoenix platform.
For now, the California operation will only give rides to Waymo employees and their guests within a limited service area in South Bay neighborhoods.
A spokesperson for Waymo said:“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."
Waymo is the first company granted permission to operate fully driverless vehicles with no human backup drivers on public roads in California. No other company has been given permission to conduct fully driverless testing in the state. Waymo has already driven autonomous driverless vehicles about 1.3 million miles on California roads according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
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