Late on Thursday, Cruise became the first company to win a permit to charge customers in San Fransisco, California for rides in self-driving cars.
The company said it will start rolling out fared rides gradually, expanding slowly for the smoothest customer service experience possible. Although the company was operating in San Francisco before, it is only now allowed to charge for rides it gives.
“Crossing the threshold into commercial operations isn’t just big news for Cruise alone,” wrote the company in a blog post. “It is a major milestone for the shared mission of the AV industry to improve life in our cities.”
Per Reuters, the company will roll out as many as 30 of its vehicles, a version of the Chevrolet Bolt modified to be equipped with self-driving gear. The vehicles have previously given rides to GM CEO Mary Barra and others.
The permits were created and awarded by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) over the objections of some San Francisco city officials. The commission argued that it was “taking a careful, incremental approach” to regulating the vehicles and that it would continue to gather important data.
Indeed, cars will be limited to a maximum speed of 30 mph (48 km/h), won’t be allowed to go downtown or onto highways, and they won’t be allowed to drive between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. They will also be prevented from driving at times of heavy fog, rain, or smoke.
San Francisco city officials and firefighters, though, have objected to the measure citing odd behavior. Just a few days ago, reports emerged about a Cruise vehicle impeding the progress of a fire truck on its way to an emergency.
Documents obtained by Reuters, meanwhile, indicate that Cruise vehicles suffered 34 accidents involving bodily harm or over $1,000 in damage over a four-year span ending in May 2021.
More recently, however, the company’s vehicles have been involved in incidents that are more odd than harmful. Although it has difficulty reacting to unusual behavior, even the San Francisco city officials who opposed the permit conceded that “the driverless Cruise AV appears to generally operate as a cautious and compliant defensive driver.”
Besides being celebrated by Cruise, the decision to award permits has been supported by business and disability groups.