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Waymo obtains California's first fully driverless testing permit

The Alphabet subsidiary plans to test in and around its headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Waymo Castle Test
California just granted Waymo the first-ever permit to test cars on public roads without a human safety driver.

Waymo has been granted a permit by the State of California to test fully driverless vehicles on public roads, according to a statement by the agency released Tuesday. While California isn't the first state to allow this -- Arizona was -- it's by far the most populous state to do so.

We reported earlier this year that California's DMV was accepting applications from companies wanting to test self-driving cars without human safety drivers on public roads, but until this point, no such permits had been issued. Waymo, a leader in the development of autonomous vehicles, is somewhat unsurprisingly the first.

"California has been working toward this milestone for several years, and we will continue to keep the public's safety in mind as this technology evolves," said DMV Director Jean Shiomoto, in a statement.

The limits of the permit are well defined. Waymo is only allowed to test its fleet of approximately three dozen vehicles without human safety drivers inside a predetermined geographical area in and around Mountain View, California, in Santa Clara County. Waymo will be testing during day and night hours, at speeds up to 65 miles per hour and in inclement weather conditions, as outlined in a recent blog post from Waymo.

The predetermined geographical testing area for Waymo's program includes its hometown of Mountain View and outlying areas.


In order to get this permit, Waymo had to jump through some fairly significant hoops mandated by the state, including:

  • Providing evidence of insurance or a bond equal to $5 million.
  • Verifying vehicles are capable of operating without a driver and meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and is an SAE Level 4 or 5 vehicle.
  • Confirming vehicles have been tested under controlled conditions that simulate the planned area of operation.
  • Notifying local governments of planned testing in the area.
  • Developing a Law Enforcement Interaction Plan that provides information to law enforcement and other first responders on how to interact with test vehicles.
  • Continuously monitoring the status of test vehicles and providing two-way communication with any passengers.
  • Training remote operators on the technology being tested.

Given the resources and level of technology refinement required by the state, we'll be curious to see which company can secure the second such permit and in what part of California it will choose to operate.