Waymo is one step closer to charging passengers for completely driverless rides in San Francisco. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has said so promised the company a Driverless Pilot permit, which allows it to pick up passengers in a test vehicle without a driver behind the wheel. It is only the second entrant to the CPUC’s Driverless Permit program, with Cruise the first.
By obtaining the permit, Waymo now has the authority to offer driverless rides throughout San Francisco, parts of Daly City, as well as parts of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. The vehicles are allowed to go as fast as 65 miles per hour and can run 24/7, but the company can’t charge for the rides just yet. Waymo told engaged that it will begin offering free driverless rides to select members of the public in the coming weeks. Note that the company has been offering free driverless rides to the public in Phoenix since 2020.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles recently authorized Waymo charging for fully autonomous driving. However, the company still needs to obtain a Driverless Deployment Permit – the next step after this one – from the CPUC in order to begin doing so. The agency gave Cruise a robotaxis deployment license in June, nearly a year after it was allowed to offer free rides to the public.
Like Cruise, Waymo will likely not be allowed to drive its vehicles in times of heavy fog and rain when it gets its deployment permit. However, Robotaxi companies must find a way to overcome the performance issues of autonomous vehicles in inclement weather if they want to serve more places and more people. Waymo is taking steps to address the problem and recently announced that it is using its latest auto sensor arrays to create real-time weather maps of Phoenix and San Francisco. The company, which is owned by Alphabet, will use the collected data to improve its Driver AI’s ability to handle rough weather and better understand the limits of its vehicles.
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