Waymo can now charge for fully driverless services in San Francisco

The California Department of Motor Vehicles approved an amendment to Waymo's existing deployment permit Wednesday to include driverless, as well as drivered, operations. Now, Waymo will be able to charge for usage of its autonomous vehicles, which will operate without anyone in the driver's seat, for services like food and grocery delivery.

The upgraded DMV permit is a prerequisite to launching a fully autonomous commercial ride-hail service in San Francisco, as its main competitor Cruise did this summer. All Waymo needs now is a driverless deployment permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to finally start charging for rider-only autonomous rides in the city. The company will be eligible to apply for that permit once it has operated its driverless cars on public roads for at least 30 days.

Waymo received its drivered deployment permit from the DMV last September, which allowed the company to begin a commercial autonomous delivery pilot in San Francisco with Albertsons earlier this year. Per the permit's requirements, a human safety operator has to be in the front seat during operations.

San_Francisco_waymo service area
San_Francisco_waymo service area

Waymo's service area in San Francisco. Image Credit: Waymo

Waymo then received a CPUC drivered deployment permit in February this year and began charging its "trusted testers" for robotaxi rides with a human safety operator in the front seat in May.

Between June and August, Waymo completed more than 709,000 miles with a safety driver in the state of California, according to the CPUC's quarterly report.

The company recently expanded its service in downtown Phoenix to include trips, with a human safety operator, to Phoenix's airport, and said it would launch a robotaxi service in Los Angeles.