In San Francisco, Waymo is one step closer to charging passengers for fully driverless rides. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has granted the company a Driverless Pilot permit,
allowing it to pick up passengers in a test vehicle without a driver. It is only the second participant in the CPUC’s Driverless Permit program, following Cruise.
Waymo now has the authority to offer driverless rides throughout San Francisco, parts of Daly City, and parts of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale.
Its vehicles can travel at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour and operate around the clock, but the company cannot yet charge for rides.
Waymo told Engadget that in the coming weeks, it will begin offering free rides without a driver to select members of the public.
It is worth noting that the company has been providing free driverless rides to the public in Phoenix since 2020.
Waymo was recently granted permission by the California Department of Motor Vehicles to charge for fully autonomous rides. However, the company must first obtain a Driverless Deployment permit from the CPUC, which is the next step after this one.
The agency granted Cruise a deployment permit for robotaxis in June, nearly a year after it was granted permission to provide free rides to the public.
When Waymo receives its deployment permit, it will most likely be prohibited from operating its vehicles during periods of heavy fog and rain, similar to Cruise.
However, if robotaxi companies want to service more places and people, they must find a way to overcome autonomous vehicles’ performance issues in bad weather.
Waymo is addressing the issue, recently announcing that it will use its latest car sensor arrays to create real-time weather maps of Phoenix and San Francisco.
The data will be used by Alphabet-owned company to improve its Driver AI’s ability to handle rough weather and to better understand the limits of its vehicles.