Having applied for the permit back in April, Waymo has now received permission to use its autonomous cars on both city and rural roads in California.
The self-driving vehicles will be able to travel at speeds of up to 65 miles (105 kilometres) per hour.
Initially, the new fleet of test cars will be confined to the neighbourhoods of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto.
They will initially only transport Waymo employees but the company plans to open it up to the public in time.
Waymo wins first permit to begin driverless tests in California https://t.co/nAKPBzSRNl
— Bloomberg (@business) October 30, 2018
Waymo has become the leader in the race to autonomous ride-hailing services
“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,” Waymo wrote in a press release. “For our cars, that means following well-established protocols, which include contacting Waymo fleet and rider support for help in resolving the issue.”
Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet and has been involved in self-driving vehicles since 2009, having logged more than 10 million test miles (16 million km) with its autonomous cars. It has been testing its autonomous ride-hailing service in Arizona and analysts forecast it could emerge as a serious competitor to Uber.
The Arizona trial has also seen Waymo enter into a partnership with Walmart where shoppers can place an order at the hypermarket and then hail an autonomous vehicle to the store to collect their items.
The company has sought to position itself as a family-friendly concern and a contrast to Uber in terms of branding.
Waymo just became the first company allowed to test fully self-driving cars—the kind with no human beings behind the wheel—in the state of California https://t.co/rAKZBHvxIj
— WIRED (@WIRED) October 30, 2018
Driverless ride-sharing services on the rise in California
California is also home to ride-sharing titans Lyft and Uber, both of whom have an interest in moving into what is considered to be potentially a hugely lucrative market for autonomous ride-hailing services.
There are no less than 60 companies involved in trialling 300 autonomous cars, the Californian DMCV said.
Uber’s self-driving car business has been relatively quiet since one of its vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona in March this year.
John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog said the Californian DMV was “letting Waymo turn all of us into human guinea pigs for testing their robot cars” and has not adequately explained its technology.
In an email to Forbes, Simpson said: “The DMV is simply trusting Waymo – without any real verification – and is putting our safety at risk.”
Earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing authorities to impound self-driving vehicles.