The permits received Thursday allow Waymo and Cruise to charge money and receive compensation from operating an autonomous vehicle. They restricts the companies to operating in designated portions of the Bay Area.
Using AVs for paid commercial passenger service requires further authorization from the California Public Utilities Commission.
Cruise hailed the occasion, saying it was the first company tracking toward offering “driverless” commercial ride-hailing service. Waymo, on the other hand, indicated it had received a permit for “drivered” commercial service, with a human safety operator remaining behind the wheel.
It was not immediately clear why the companies viewed the scope of the permits differently.
Both companies have tested robotaxis in the state for years. Cruise has almost exclusively tested its vehicles in San Francisco. Waymo has conducted test operations both around its Mountain View headquarters and, more recently, focused on San Francisco's streets with its fifth-generation self-driving system as a precursor to commercial service.
The DMV has granted Cruise permission to operate light-duty vehicles between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. within certain parts of San Francisco at no more than 30 mph.
Waymo, on the other hand, can operate at speeds up to 65 mph and test in parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. Both companies can test in light rain and fog, the latter of which seems like a prerequisite in always-foggy San Francisco.
Beyond the three companies now approved for commercial deployments, five others have received driverless-testing permits: Baidu, AutoX, WeRide, Zoox and Pony.ai.