Waymo is considerably nearer to offering fully driverless rides to California residents. The state's Department of Motor Vehicles has greenlit an amended deployment permit that lets Waymo charge the general population for completely autonomous rides on public roads. The update clears the way for Waymo One to charge for passenger-only service in San Francisco, much like it does in Phoenix. This also allows for paid delivery services.
The company isn't opening Waymo One's San Francisco operations to the public "at this time," a spokesperson told Engadget. Waymo has so far limited these rides to employees and "Trusted Testers" covered under existing deployment and testing permits. The firm already had permission to charge for self-driving taxi rides with a safety driver aboard.
Waymo is catching up to a degree. Its GM-owned rival Cruise already has clearance for commercial driverless service in parts of San Francisco, albeit with restrictions on hours, speed and weather. Nuro also has a deployment permit, although it's using its approval for autonomous deliveries through partners like Uber Eats.
Any future Waymo One service in San Francisco will still be relatively modest compared to what's available in China. Baidu's robotaxi service is available to the public in larger Chinese cities, albeit with limitations on driver-free cars. It will still represent a major milestone, though — one of the most influential cities in the US could soon offer robotic cars for your next trip home.