MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Waymo has applied to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to test its autonomous vehicles without safety operators on the state’s roads, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. To date, only two companies have applied for such permits; the other company remains anonymous. The DMV has an indefinite timeline to approve or deny permit requests.
If Waymo receives the new permit, directors plan to begin testing near its Mountain View headquarters — the same place it has been testing its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans with backup drivers. Eventually, the company will test its no-driver autonomous vehicles to a greater geographic footprint within the Bay area, according to the report.
Companies seeking a permit must specify the kind of roadways as well as the conditions in which their no-driver cars can operate. Waymo reported its cars can drive on city streets and highways up to 65 miles per hour and navigate both day and night, through fog and light rain — implying that they are not yet ready for snow or major downpours.
The public remains skeptical about autonomous vehicles, especially following an accident in which an autonomous Uber — manned by a “safety driver” — struck and killed a Tempe, Ariz., pedestrian in March.
SurveyUSA has found that 58% of Californians surveyed said self-driving cars piloted by computers — and without a human driver — should not be allowed on the streets of their neighborhood. Seniors and residents from rural areas were particularly emphatic about keeping autonomous vehicles out of their communities, reports ABC Eyewitness News.
Waymo has been a trailblazer in testing autonomous vehicles, starting as early as 2009. In California, it was the third company to receive a permit for testing with backup safety drivers behind the wheel. To date, its cars have driven some 5 million miles — with 2 million of them in California, reports the Chronicle. Waymo has been testing no-driver cars on public roads in Arizona since October of 2017.