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Waymo robo-taxi moves closer to commercial debut in California

Putting an end to the long-drawn wait, California regulators Tuesday granted operational approval for self-driving taxi Waymo, an early-stage company owned by Google’s (GOOG) parent Alphabet (Nasdaq: GOOGL).

The sanction allows Waymo’s robo-cabs to transport customers by participating in the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot. The green signal from the California Public Utilities Commission takes the company one step closer to launching commercial operations in the area.

Also see: Alphabet Q1 2019 Earnings Conference Call Transcript

Earlier, the driverless-taxi project had undergone a series of tests that lasted several months, after securing permission from the California Department of Motor Vehicles for testing self-driving vehicles in the state. Currently, around 60 such companies hold the permit to conduct tests in California.

The sanction allows Waymo to transport customers by participating in the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service pilot

The approval, however, comes with a set of conditions – such as the passengers cannot be charged at this point and the robo-taxies should have a driver to ensure the safety of those traveling in them. Also, the details of each trip, including those related to the passengers, are required to be shared with the authorities.

Autonomous taxi companies that obtained similar permits in the past include Zoox, AutoX, and Pony.ai. Earlier, Waymo had debuted its self-driving taxi service in Arizona on a pilot basis. The company also provided its cabs to passengers of ride haling firm Lyft in Phoenix, recently.

Alphabet shares were trading up 1.5% Tuesday, after opening the session higher. The stock, which lost about 3% in the past twelve months, is currently recovering from the selloff that followed the dismal first-quarter results.

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