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Waymo gains approval for transporting passengers in self-driving cars in California

As Waymo continues its push for a driverless future, the Alphabet company is trying to expand to more regions. This week, the state of California has granted Waymo a permit to transport passengers in its self-driving vehicles.

First spotted by TechCrunch, the California Public Utilities Commission granted a permit on Tuesday for Waymo to participate in an Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot program. Currently, over 60 companies have permits to test self-driving vehicles in the state, but Waymo’s permit differs. This permit from the CPUC gives the company permission to transport people in its self-driving vehicles on state roads.

However, this permit still has some restrictions. Waymo can’t charge passengers for these rides and safety drivers must still be behind the wheel. Reports must also be provided to the CPUC on safety protocols and total passenger miles traveled. The CPUC also gave Waymo permission to contract out the required safety operators after the company argued that scale would require third-party staffing. Those drivers will still go through Waymo’s training program, though.

In a statement, a Waymo spokesperson hinted at how this permit would be used, making it clear that the company would like to eventually accomplish what’s been done in Phoenix.

The CPUC allows us to participate in their pilot program, giving Waymo employees the ability to hail our vehicles and bring guests on rides within our South Bay territory. This is the next step in 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.

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