Just last month, California's Department of Motor Vehicles issued a permit to Waymo authorizing it to be the first company to receive a permit to test driverless vehicles on public roads, including freeways, highways, and streets, within the cities of Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Sunnyvale, in Santa Clara County. While Waymo has held a permit to test autonomous vehicles with a driver since 2014, the new permit allows the company to test a fleet of about three dozen test vehicles without drivers behind the wheel. This is just the latest milestone in what most experts agree to be the leading AV program in the industry.
It follows last year’s announcement, that after more than eight years of development, the company was test-driving its vehicles on public roads in Phoenix without anyone in the driver’s seat. A subset of its fleet began operating in fully autonomous mode, with Waymo as the sole driver.
The Phoenix announcement came just two years after Waymo said that it completed the world’s first fully self-driving trip on public roads, when legally blind Steve Mahan traveled from a park to a doctor’s office without anyone in the driver’s seat. That ride offered a glimpse into the technology that company engineers have been working on since Waymo started as a Google project in 2009.
Since then, its vehicles have driven more than 10 million autonomous miles on public roads across the U.S. This builds on almost 7 billion miles driven in simulations alone. Waymo says its goal is to reimagine transportation, from ride-hailing and logistics to public transport and personal vehicles. Its specific focus is on shared mobility rather than on personal ownership model, giving access to a fleet of vehicles so that more people will be able to experience the technology sooner. The first application of its fully self-driving technology will be a driverless service.
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