The California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday granted its first permit to Waymo to test autonomous vehicles without a driver in a car.

Waymo, the self-driving project launched by Google and its parent company Alphabet, will be allowed to test its vehicles on freeways, highways and streets within cities in Santa Clara County, including Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Sunnyvale, DMV officials said.

Regulations for companies to test their driverless vehicles with a driver inside took effect on Sept. 16, 2014 while regulations to test vehicles without a driver took effect in April of this year.

In order to receive a driverless permit from the DMV, companies must meet a number of guidelines, such as having insurance or bond equal to $5 million, meeting motor safety vehicle requirements, confirming testing under controlled conditions that simulate the planned testing area, informing city officials of testing, developing a law enforcement intersection plan, and continuous monitoring of test vehicles and training of employees.

Companies with a driverless permit will also have to report to the DMV any collisions involving the test vehicle within 10 days and submit an annual report when a vehicle disengages with the driverless technology.

More than 60 companies have a permit to test driverless vehicles with a driver inside, including companies such as Apple, Lyft and Tesla Motors.

Waymo says its first passengers in its driverless cars will be Waymo staff but will offer opportunities for the public to ride the driverless vehicle similar to a program offered in Arizona where the company is also allowed to test its vehicles without a driver.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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