California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has just granted permission for Waymo to operate its self-driving cars on public roads. The company, owned by Google parent company Alphabet, will begin operating its fully autonomous Fiat Chrysler minivans in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto near its own headquarters. Waymo is the first company to receive permission for what is known in the industry as Level 5 Automation. With the recent acquisition of a further 62,000 Chrysler minivans, the company plans to roll out the fully autonomous taxis nationwide with Phoenix, Arizona up next after California.
In the United States, autonomous vehicles are classified in 5 categories of driving, with Level 5 - full automation as the highest classification. With Teslas and others already at Level 3 in great numbers out on the roads, and with the recent level 5 approval for Waymo, has the age of driverless vehicles officially begun?
If so, how rapidly will we see the shift to driverless vehicles occur and how quickly will the millions of people employed in transportation be out of work? Furthermore, what effects will fully autonomous vehicles have on vehicle ownership and where people work, live, and play? Will there be fewer cars on the roads, and will we still require parking lots? If not, what effect might this have on city-planning and real estate markets? Finally, if distances between work, home, and school become more affordable and the trips themselves potentially more productive for riders, what widespread cultural changes might occur?