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Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, will soon begin giving autonomous robotaxi rides, with no automation specialists in the vehicles, to members of the public in San Francisco. The company plans to begin rides in the coming weeks, as it just received a driverless pilot permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
The permit allows Waymo to give rides in its autonomous vehicles (AVs) without any driver in the vehicle, but it does not allow Waymo to charge for these rides. Waymo can give autonomous rides throughout San Francisco, as walls as in portions of Daly City, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. The company’s AVs can operate on roads with posted speed limits of up to 65 miles an hour, at any time of day or night.
While Waymo is unable to charge for its rider-only autonomous rides, it does hold a Drivered Deployment permit, which allows it to charge for rides given in San Francisco when its automation specialists are behind the wheel.
“We are seeing momentum build in this space and are working to assure the safe expansion of the driverless pilot program,” CPUC Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma said.
SF, who’s ready to ride? 🚘🤖
After receiving the driverless pilot permit from the @californiapuc, Waymo One is opening to members of the public in San Francisco. Available 24/7—without anyone in the driver’s seat: https://t.co/TenpLez0lo pic.twitter.com/DtSXXGNJpa
— Waymo (@Waymo) November 18, 2022
Waymo began giving public robotaxi rides in San Francisco in 2021, but it has been operating in Phoenix and the Phoenix suburbs since 2017. Just last week it announced it was opening up rider-only robotaxi rides in downtown Phoenix to the public. The company can also give rides from downtown Phoenix to the Phoenix airport.
There’s only one other company that holds a driverless pilot permit from the CPUC for San Francisco, and that’s Cruise, the self-driving unit of GM, both companies received the permit at the same time. Cruise announced earlier this week that it was offering daytime, driverless robotaxi rides to its employees in the city.
Cruise has mainly operated its robotaxi services between 10 PM and 6 AM, which was part of the original restrictions of its drivered deployment permit. The company hopes to open its daytime services to the public soon.
Waymo began as Google’s self-driving car project in 2009. It has more than 700 vehicles in its fleet, which is made up of a mix of Jaguar I-PACE EVs, Chrysler Pacific Hybrid minivans and Class 8 trucks.