When most people go to the DMV, they hope to leave with a permit that allows them to get behind the wheel. For Waymo, the best news is a permit that allows us to get out from behind the wheel. We’re excited to announce that the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has just granted Waymo the first permit in the state to begin driverless testing on public roads.
This permit is the result of new DMV regulations that took effect in April, which allow companies to apply for fully driverless testing within carefully defined limits, and is the product of nearly ten years of testing in California by Waymo’s team. It’s the first time that California has allowed tests on public roads of fully driverless cars ― that is, without a test driver sitting in the driver’s seat.
Fully driverless testing is the latest step in the path Waymo has been on since 2009, when we first began working on self-driving technology at Google. Since then we’ve driven over ten million autonomous miles on public roads across 25 cities. California will join our driverless testing program that’s already been happening in Phoenix, Arizona since last year.
Waymo’s test cars will be driving in the shaded area of the map, which includes parts of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto. We know this area well: it includes the headquarters for Waymo and our parent company, Alphabet. Mountain View is home to more than a dozen autonomous vehicle companies, and has supported safe testing for years.
Prior to expanding the territory for driverless testing, we will notify the new communities where this expansion will occur, and submit a request to the DMV.
The rules of the road
Waymo’s permit includes day and night testing on city streets, rural roads and highways with posted speed limits of up to 65 miles per hour. Our vehicles can safely handle fog and light rain, and testing in those conditions is included in our permit. We will gradually begin driverless testing on city streets in a limited territory and, over time, expand the area that we drive in as we gain confidence and experience to expand.
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.
Safety is at the core of Waymo’s mission. Our vehicles undergo rigorous testing that begins well before they get to the road. Besides those 10 million miles on public roads, our self-driving system has learned from driving nearly 7 billion simulated miles.
Who’ll be riding with Waymo? Our first driverless rides will be for members of the Waymo team. Eventually, we’ll create opportunities for members of the public to experience this technology, as we’ve done in Arizona with our early rider program.
Our thanks to the DMV for granting Waymo the first step forward in California — a green light to move forward with the next phase of our driverless testing in the Bay Area.
A Green Light for Waymo’s Driverless Testing in California was originally published in Waymo on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.