Taxi services

California allows Cruise to launch fully driverless taxi services

A fully autonomous commercial robo-taxi service without a backup driver is set to launch in San Francisco, after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued its first-ever driverless deployment permit to Cruise, a subsidiary of GM.

This permit marks the first time robocabs have been allowed to pick up paying customers without keeping a back-up driver on board to handle sticky situations the AI ​​isn’t yet ready to handle.

According to CPUC, “Cruise can offer passenger service to the general public in its fleet of 30 all-electric AVs without a safety driver present on select San Francisco streets at speeds up to 30 mph, from 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 is permitted to charge fares for these rides but cannot offer shared rides between passengers from different parts at the moment.

The “selected streets” in question do not currently include downtown San Francisco, and the allowed times are obviously chosen to keep these things off the street when there are a lot of cars on the road. Shared rides are currently prohibited in an attempt to assure passengers that they are safe from assault and harassment from other passengers.

The proposal was passed despite some concerns raised during the public consultation process. Disability Rights California complained that the service did not meet the needs of some disability groups because it does not currently provide wheelchair accessible vehicles or auxiliary aids for the hearing impaired and deafblind.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency also expressed concern that Cruise’s self-driving vehicles had occasionally performed passenger pickups and drop-offs without finding a legal place to stop, stopping in a lane of traffic active and blocking other vehicles – but Cruise pointed out that as utility vehicles, its cabins are allowed to do so when “reasonably necessary”.

Ultimately, the city believes self-driving electric taxis will make the streets safer and the air cleaner, while protecting passenger safety and improving access to transportation, especially for the disadvantaged.

Cruise will start rolling out the service gradually, and the company plans to expand its fleet and request expanded capabilities in time.

Source: Cruise