California regulators Thursday voted to allow the world’s first commercial taxi service to use autonomous cars.
In a unanimous vote Thursday, the state’s Public Utilities Commission approved General Motors’ and Cruise’s final application to start the commercial ride-hailing business in San Francisco.
Cruise will use a fleet of 30 completely driverless all-electric Chevrolet Bolts – with no safety driver – to ferry passengers around parts of the city.
“It is a landmark resolution,” said Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma, adding that it will help the environment, improve safety and aid disadvantaged people in getting around. “We have taken a measured path to get to this point.”
Austin autonomy:No driver: Fully autonomous cars now navigate some roads in Austin, Texas
EV acceptance:More car buyers ready to consider EVs, but lack of charging access remains a hurdle
San Francisco driving limitations
Cruise is the San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle company in which GM owns an 80% stake.
“We received the first-ever Driverless Deployment Permit granted by the California Public Utilities Commission, which allows us to charge a fare for the driverless rides we are providing to members of the public here in San Francisco,” Cruise COO Gil West said in a blog statement. “This means that Cruise will be the first and only company to operate a commercial, driverless ride-hail service in a major U.S. city.”
A statement from the California Public Utilities Commission said with the permit, Cruise may offer passenger service to the general public in its fleet at a maximum speed of 30 mph, from the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily “when weather conditions do not include heavy rain, heavy fog, heavy smoke, hail, sleet, or snow.”
Cruise will have to apply to the commission to make any changes, such as expanding service hours, changing the geography, roadway types, speed, or weather conditions of its operations.
GM CEO Barra celebrates ‘huge milestone’
Earlier this year, Cruise started giving members of the public free rides in its driverless taxi service in San Francisco, which covers 70% of the city.
Now Cruise will start charging a fare for the rides in the coming weeks, operating in the northwest part of San Francisco, said Cruise spokeswoman Hannah Lindow.
“We’ll begin rolling out fared rides gradually, expanding in alignment with the smoothest customer experience possible,” West said.
Minutes after the commission approved the resolution, GM CEO Mary Barra tweeted: “What a huge milestone for AV technology that will improve life in our cities – congrats to the entire team!”
Cruise’s fare will be comparable and competitive with traditional ride-hailing services now, Lindow told the Detroit Free Press.
No steering wheel, no accelerator pedal
Cruise will expand slowly and methodically across San Francisco and eventually elsewhere while focusing on “giving the best customer experience possible,” Lindow said.
GM has grand ambitions for Cruise. In April GM said it will spend $2 billion this year on Cruise operations.
In a previous article, Cruise spokesman Aaron McLear told the Free Press, “We are laser-focused on launching our ride-hail product in San Francisco and have announced Dubai as our first international market. But we have not announced any other future markets.”
Nobody in it:Self-driving car pulled over in San Francisco, confounding police. ‘Ain’t nobody in it.’
Luxury Hummer:2022 GMC Hummer EV aims to beat Mercedes and Porsche high-end SUVs
While Cruise has not turned a profit yet, GM expects it will once it is operating as a self-driving ride-hail fleet. In October 2021, at GM’s Investor Day, then-Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said the target for the ride-hailing business was that it will reach $50 billion in revenue as it ramps up operations over the next eight years.
The electric self-driving vehicle Cruise will eventually operate is called the Origin, which GM developed as part of its partnership with Honda Motor Co. It is a boxy car with no steering wheel or gas pedal that is designed to carry multiple passengers as part of a ride-hailing fleet.
It will be made at Factory Zero in metro Detroit starting in early 2023. GM presently makes the 2022 GMC Hummer EV pickup at Factory Zero and will soon start building the Hummer SUV and the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado pickup there next year.
Contact Jamie L. LaReau at 313-222-2149 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan.