Google’s parent company pushes ahead with self-driving taxis — with California in its sights

Alphabet’s self-driving car company Waymo can now begin transporting passengers in its robotaxis, thanks to a new regulatory approval in California.

The California Public Utilities Commission issued Waymo approval to join a test program called Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot. It comes nearly a week after Waymo made its autonomous vehicles available to Lyftriders in Phoenix.

The permit is significant because it brings the company, which has been working on self-driving car technology for years, one step closer to using its cars for commercial service. Waymo spun out of sister-company Google in December 2016, and has been testing its commercial robotaxi service called Waymo One with a limited group of customers in Phoenix since December 2018.

Waymo isn’t the only big name experimenting with robotaxis. Uber is developing and testing its own self-driving technology, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk said earlier this year that Tesla cars will be able to serve as robotaxis some time in 2020.

“The CPUC permit 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,” a Waymo spokesperson said in a statement. “This is the next step on 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.”