Article originally published in Smart Cities Drive.
All eyes are on California as Cruise prepares to roll out the state’s first-ever driverless car service to the public.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in June authorized Cruise, a General Motors subsidiary, to operate the pilot program, which will be free to riders. Only autonomous vehicles (AV) with capacity for less than 15 passengers will be permitted to participate. Few other details are available at this stage; Cruise did not respond to requests for further comment, and a CPUC spokesperson declined to give further details.
The pilot represents an intriguing opportunity for California and for AV companies, which will be monitoring the situation to see how the public takes to the service, and also to see how Cruise and state regulators define success. If Cruise’s program goes well, it may encourage competitors to follow them into driverless service.
This latest program builds on California’s already robust AV testing environment. Late last year, the state issued its first deployment permit to Nuro, allowing the company to launch a fee-based driverless delivery business in two Bay Area counties. Given the state’s determination to lead on public roads AV testing, experts say they are unsurprised at this next step, and they believe the partnership with Cruise could help accelerate AV rollout. Onlookers in the AV space say the pilot will need clear objectives and metrics to be a long-term success, however.
“In many ways, California is leading the nation in the acceptance and promotion of autonomous vehicles,” Eric Tanenblatt, global chair of public policy and regulation at the law firm Dentons, said in an email. “Cruise is unique because they specifically wanted to test in an urban environment and experience, early on, all the challenges that come from navigating dense roadways. The truth is that these environments are where autonomous vehicles will really assist the public.”