Fully autonomous cars get their California driving licence

Waymo, the company created by Google to develop self-driving car technology, has just been granted a licence to put vehicles on the roads of California with no human back-up sitting behind the wheel.

The company, which is now Google’s sister company, issued a tweet yesterday announcing that it had just been granted its first driverless test permit by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The permit applies to the area around Mountain View, between San Francisco and San Jose, where Waymo is based.

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.

According to the DMV, although Waymo is the first company to receive a driverless permit in California, 60 manufacturers are permitted to test autonomous vehicles in California with a safety driver.

California will now join the driverless testing programme that the company began in Phoenix, Arizona, last year.

Last week, the company announced that it had just begun charging passengers to ride in its self-driving taxi service, which do have a safety driver.

The company said the permit included day and night testing on city streets, rural roads and highways with posted speed limits of up to 65mph.

It added: "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."

The company said it planned to expand the test area in the future, and it would follow the Arizona tests in offering to allow members of the public to ride in the test cars.

Image: Waymo cars have just begun commercial operation (Waymo)

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