Cruise receives the green light to give driverless rides to travelers in San Francisco

Waymo and Cruise, two of the leading autonomous vehicle organizations in the US, gotten grants from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to offer rides to travelers in their robotaxis.

However, while Cruise was supported to give rides in its fully driverless vehicles without safety drivers, Waymo just is permitted to convey its autonomous vehicles with a human monitor behind the wheel. To offer rides to paying travelers in its completely driverless vehicles, as it does in Arizona, the Google spinoff would have to apply for an extra grant from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Waymo was the first organization to get a driverless testing permit in 2018. And keeping in mind that the possibility of a fully autonomous ride-hailing service is as yet Waymo’s “north star and ultimate service model,” as indicated by a representative, the organization will possibly eliminate security drivers from its vehicles when it’s prepared to do as such.

“As part of Waymo’s incremental approach to rolling out the fully driverless experience to our users in a new geographic area, we first deploy AVs equipped with our automated driving system (“ADS”) and a trained driver behind the wheel,” the spokesperson said in an email. “We begin offering trips to passengers, before we remove the driver to offer trips in rider only mode.”

Cruise, for its part, is hailing the permit to offer rides to travelers in completely driverless vehicles as an achievement. Rob Grant, senior VP of government affairs and social effect, said the permit “brings [Cruise] one step closer to achieving our mission to make transportation safer, better, and more affordable in cities with our fleet of all-electric, self-driving and shared vehicles.”

The organization had wanted to launch a commercial robotaxi service in San Francisco in 2019 yet failed to do as such, and it still can’t seem to publicly commit to a new date.

California is ground zero for AV testing in the US, with more than 50 organizations licensed to operate autonomous vehicles for testing purposes in the state. A modest bunch of organizations hold grants to test completely driverless vehicles, without safety drivers behind the steering wheel. Also, a much more modest number have been approved to get and drop off travelers as part of a commercial pilot service. The present permits represent the next step in that process.

AVs registered in California traveled around 1.99 million miles in autonomous mode on public streets in 2020. The total miles driven by Waymo and Cruise, 1.39 million, is 70 percent of the total autonomous miles driven in California in 2020.

Cruise vehicles are approved to work somewhere in the range of 10PM and 6AM at a most extreme speed of 30mph and can even drive in “light rain and fog.” Waymo vehicles can work on public roads in parts of San Francisco and San Mateo regions at a maximum speed of 65mph.

“We can only offer paid rides in driverless AVs to members of the public during those hours (pending the final CPUC deployment permit),” a Cruise spokesperson said. “We can continue to test with or without passengers in both driverless and with drivers 24/7. We will coordinate with our regulators as we expand hours of operations and geographic corridors.”

Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that would require AV organizations to just use electric vehicles beginning in 2030.