Waymo (Google before it) has now clocked up over 10 million autonomous miles on public roads in 25 cities. Last year, Phoenix, Arizona, became the first to set its self-driving cars free of human back up by allowing a public trial of fully driverless vehicles. Now California has joined the party.
California's Department of Motor Vehicles has granted Waymo the first permit in the state for driverless testing on public roads, the result of new rules that allow for applications to be sent in for testing of fully driverless vehicles within "carefully defined limits." That means that the fully driverless vehicle route will be restricted to parts of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto.
The approved zone should feel like home for the company, as the area is where both Waymo and its parent, Alphabet, are headquartered. The tests will begin in a limited area and expand as confidence and experience builds. Before moving into new territory, Waymo intends to notify residents that there are fully driverless vehicles in the area.
The permit includes day and night time driving on city streets, rural roads and highways with speed limits up to 65 mph (104 km/h). Since there will be no human backup if a problem occurs, Waymo says that its test vehicles will come to a safe stop and try to work out how best to proceed. And they will call fleet support for help if the issue can't be resolved locally.
The first passengers in the fully driverless vehicles will be members of the Waymo team, but the company plans to open the project up to members of the public some time in the future.
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