Cruise gets green light for commercial robotaxi service in San Francisco


Kyle Vogt, co-founder, president and chief technology officer of Cruise Automation Inc., speaks next to the Cruise Origin driverless electric shuttle during a reveal event in San Francisco, California, United States, on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Self-driving vehicle company Cruise, majority-owned by General Motors, just got the last license it needed to offer its robotaxi service to fare-paying passengers in San Francisco, the company announced Thursday.

Cruise boasted in a blog post that the clearance is “the first-ever driverless deployment permit granted by the California Public Utilities Commission,” and makes the company the first to operate “a commercial driverless transportation service.” driver in a major American city”.

The company’s cars are fully electric and battery-powered, which is also a potential gain in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The company told CPUC in an April 2021 letter that it aims to make California roads safer and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Previously, the California Department of Motor Vehicles approved autonomous vehicle deployment permits for Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo.

Cruise was already offering nighttime rides to the public in San Francisco in its driverless cars, though it has yet to require passengers to pay a fare.

Police previously stopped a driverless cruiser in San Francisco, and a video of the incident has gone viral. California’s DMV told CNBC that despite this incident, as of late April the department had yet to issue a ticket to any driver of a driverless vehicle.

Rodney Brooks, professor emeritus of robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recently rode in Cruise driverless taxis and wrote favorably about the experience on his blog.

He said, in that post, “Cruise has established an MVP, a ‘minimum viable product,’ the keystone of successful technology.” He also clarified that he doesn’t believe the mass adoption of driverless cars is near. He wrote, “We still have a ways to go, and mass adoption may not come in the form of a one-for-one replacement of the human drive that has driven this dream for the last decade or more.”

Cruise competitors are also testing driverless vehicles in San Francisco.

Alphabet’s Waymo offered free driverless rides to employees or members of a testing program in San Francisco. He’s also completed “tens of thousands” of self-driving trips in Arizona.

Another driverless startup, focused on transporting goods rather than passengers, Nuro, also has a rollout license to operate driverless cars in San Francisco.

While Tesla CEO Elon Musk often touts the company’s ambitions to deliver “robotaxi-ready” cars, Tesla vehicles are maxed out with his Full Self Driving Beta program, an experimental assistance system driving, which forces drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. and stay alert to the road at all times.


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