Waymo is the first company in California allowed to test robot cars on public roads with no human driver behind the steering wheel, it said Tuesday. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has given Waymo a permit for up to 40 fully autonomous cars to drive both day and night on city streets, rural highways and highways with posted speeds up to 65 mph. The company, which is the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, did not say how soon the vehicles might roll. Waymo, like most companies testing self-driving cars, has long put backup drivers and engineers in the front seats of vehicles for safety purposes and to gather data on the cars' performance. The permit it has obtained is the first of its kind in the state.
Uber is heading back to its hometown after getting the green-light to test its self-driving cars on public roads. The ride-sharing giant received a permit to conduct trials with two of its Volvo SUVs in San Francisco on Wednesday. Regulators have also approved 48 people as backup drivers who must sit behind the wheel in case the cars malfunction, but the vehicles are not allowed to pick up passengers along the way. Uber is heading back to its hometown after getting the green-light to test its self-driving cars on public roads. In December, Uber released a handful of its self-driving Volvo vehicles on the public roads of San Francisco - without checking with authorities.
Alphabet Inc's Waymo unit on Tuesday became the first company to receive a permit from the state of California to test driverless vehicles without a backup driver in the front seat, the state's Department of Motor Vehicles said. California said Waymo can use about three dozen test vehicles without drivers behind the wheel in Santa Clara County. About 60 companies have permits in the state to test self-driving cars with a backup driver, including most major automakers and Apple Inc. Waymo's test cars will be driving in the shaded area of the map, which includes parts of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto. The area includes the headquarters for Waymo and our parent company, Alphabet. Mountain View is home to more than a dozen autonomous vehicle companies, and has supported safe testing for years.
California is launching two pilot programs that will allow autonomous vehicles to pick up passengers in the state, the San Francisco Examiner reports. One will let companies pick up passengers with their self-driving cars as long as a safety driver is behind the wheel. The other will allow for passenger pickup without a driver in the autonomous vehicle -- though the company will be required to have humans monitoring the cars remotely. "I am pleased to launch these pilot programs as part of the evolution of the passenger transportation system in California," California Public Utilities Commissioner Liane Randolph said in a statement. "Our state is home to world-class innovative companies and I look forward to these services being offered with the high level of safety that we expect from our passenger service providers."
The race to perfect robot cars continues despite fears kindled by the death of a woman hit by a self-driving Uber vehicle while pushing a bicycle across an Arizona street. Uber put a temporary halt to its self-driving car program in the US after the fatal accident this month near Phoenix, where several other companies including Google-owned Waymo are testing such technology. While the Uber accident may be used to advance arguments of those fearful of driverless cars, it does not change the fact that'transformative technology is coming whether we like it or not,' according to Adie Tomer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington. Pilot models of the Uber self-driving car, pictured in 2016 before one of the autonomous vehicles killed a woman in Arizona. 'There certainly will be calls to stop all autonomous vehicle testing, not just Uber's program,' Tomer said in a post on the institution's website.