Cruise launches driverless robotaxi service in San Francisco

·2-min read

Employees of Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of General Motors, will be the first to jump inside one of the company's autonomous vehicles that operate in San Francisco without a human driver in the front seat. Certain members of the public will also be able to ride, but they won't be charged a fare.

Cruise co-founder, CTO and president Kyle Vogt was reportedly the first to ride the driverless AV, and he gushed about it all over Twitter.

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"Around 11pm Monday night we launched an AV without anyone inside for the first time," tweeted Vogt. "Until now we've been testing with humans in the driver's or passenger's seat, so this was a first. It began to roam around the city, waiting for a ride request. At 11:20pm I used the Cruise app and summoned my first ride. After a few minutes, one of the Cruise AVs (named Sourdough) drove up to me and pulled over. Nobody was inside the car. I pressed the 'start ride' button and the AV smoothly pulled back into traffic."

Vogt also said he requested five more rides that night. The rides had to be at night because according to the stipulations of Cruise's "driverless deployment permit" from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the company can only operate driverless between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m and at a max speed of 30 miles per hour. Cruise received the permit in early October, which allows the company to deploy its vehicles without a human onboard, as well as charge fees for delivery services, but crucially not ride-hailing services.

Cruise's first human-less deployment comes about a week after GM CEO Mary Barra said the company is confident that Cruise will begin commercial driverless ride-hailing and delivery operations by next year. Cruise has yet to apply for the final permit it needs, which would be from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), to be able to charge for robotaxi services. Until such time, only Cruise employees and non-paying members of the public will be riding around in Sourdough and other human-less AVs.

Cruise told TechCrunch it doesn’t break out numbers for how many driverless AVs are permitted, nor does it have any updates on when it expects to apply for its final permit from CPUC.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that employees of Cruise would be able to ride in the driverless AVs. Cruise has just confirmed that certain members of the public will also be allowed to ride, but didn't specify who would qualify to ride. Cruise has not opened its driverless service to members of the general public yet.

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