Waymo Permitted to Carry Californian Passengers in Its AV’s
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July 09, 2019
Waymo has finally been issued a permit by the California Public Utilities Commission to participate in the state’s Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Passenger Service pilot. The permit allows the company to transport passengers but can’t charge a fee to the customers. The company plans to give its employees the ability to hail vehicles and bring guests on rides within Waymo’s South Bay territory.
Those cities include Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Sunnyvale, and Alphabet’s home city of Mountain View.
Formerly division of Alphabet subsidiary Google, Waymo has been allowed under state law to operate autonomous cars since 2014.
Even though it is a totally autonomous vehicle, it still needs a human safety driver behind the wheel.
Waymo is the fourth company to participate in the pilot program, following Zoox, Autox Technologies, and Pony.ai. The permit is valid for three years but is separate from California’s autonomous vehicle testing program.
In its announcement, Waymo said that the permit allows day and night testing on city streets, rural roads, and highways with posted speed limits of up to 65 miles per hour.
They also added that if a Waymo vehicle comes across a situation it doesn’t understand, it does what any good driver would do: comes to a safe stop until it does understand how to proceed.
“For our cars, that means following well-established protocols, which include contacting Waymo fleet and rider support for help in resolving the issue.”
A spokesperson 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 actually became the first company to operate a proprietary autonomous ride-hailing service, called Waymo One, in the US. It now counts more than 1,000 users. In May they announced partnering with Lyft in Arizona to give more consumers access to self-driving rides.
This actually presents a big stroke to GM’s Cruise struggles. Waymo’s closest rival in the US in terms of technical expertise. The company is significantly behind on its early ambitions of debuting an autonomous ride-hailing service by 2018. They were reportedly getting in a collision every 450 miles, still far from the goal of having a collision once in every 1,000 miles by the end of 2018.
It also presents a warning for Tesla whose “Robotaxis” are still pretty far from its realization. Also, its CEO Elon Musk recently said that new Tesla buyers could be spending much more money once his Tesla robotaxi dream becomes a reality. He tweeted:
To be clear, consumers will still be able to buy a Tesla, but the clearing price will rise significantly, as a fully autonomous car that can function as a robotaxi is several times more valuable than a non-autonomous car
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2019
He also further explained that a fully autonomous car that can function as a robotaxi, is several times more valuable than a non-autonomous car.
That could actually mean that Tesla as a company plans to earn money mostly as part of a ride-hailing service, better than selling cars for an upfront price of tens of thousands of dollars.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said recently that he’s skeptical of Musk’s promise of self-driving robotaxis in 2020, with the Uber CEO predicting “it will be quite a few years beyond” before driverless robotaxis are on the road.