Self-driving company Cruise has received a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to charge for fully driverless rides, a milestone that the company claims makes it “the first and only company to operate a commercial, driverless ride-hail service in a major U.S. city.” Cruise has been testing free driverless rides for the public in San Francisco since February, and now, it will be able to offer paid fares.
For this paid service, the GM and Honda-backed Cruise will be able to operate its 30 all-electric vehicles at night from 10PM to 6AM in “select streets” in San Francisco, and the vehicles won’t be able to go faster than 30 miles per hour, according to the draft resolution (pdf). Cruise will also only be able to offer the rides if weather conditions don’t include “heavy rain, heavy fog, heavy smoke, hail, sleet, or snow,” per a CPUC press release. The company will begin offering its paid rides “gradually” in the city, Cruise COO Gil West says in a blog post.
Cruise’s driverless robotaxi service has been a long time coming. At one point, the company had a goal to launch it in 2019, and it first began testing driverless cars in San Francisco in 2020. But Cruise isn’t the only company building fully driverless robotaxi services. Google spinoff Waymo, for example, is testing driverless rides in San Francisco and offers its Waymo One autonomous vehicle service in Arizona. And Argo AI, which is backed by Ford and Volkswagen, just announced that it’s testing fully driverless vehicles in Miami, Florida, and Austin, Texas.