Last Friday, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) announced that it authorized Cruise, an autonomous vehicles company closely tied to General Motors, to offer driverless rides to the public. While multiple AV companies have permits from the California DMV to test-drive in the state, Cruise is the first admittance to the CPUC’s driverless pilot program. The authorization comes as a win for the company and further evidence of the increasing commercialization and maturation of the autonomous vehicle industry.
Earlier this year, Cruise sought a permit to charge passengers for rides in their fleets. In response, the CPUC issued an authorization that Cruise may offer rides to the public but not charge them at this time. This authorization serves to move the company one step closer to its goal of providing a commercially available rideshare service, although it is after their 2019 target.
Since 2019, California has allowed certain Autonomous Vehicles companies to offer rides to passengers. However, Cruise is now the only company permitted to drive passengers without having a safety driver present behind the wheel. Currently, Nuro remains the only autonomous vehicles company to receive a deployment permit from the California DMV, allowing them to offer their services commercially. Of course, Nuro’s fleet is constructed for delivery only at this time.
Receiving authorization from the State of California offers a strong safety endorsement for Cruise. Some states, like Arizona, have taken a laissez-faire approach with less regulation to the development and testing of AVs in their state. California, however, has instituted a robust regulatory system. Due to a large number of regulatory hoops, Cruise’s permit serves as a signal to consumers that, even against the strongest scrutiny, Cruise’s vehicles are remarkably safe for consumer use.
This latest authorization adds to a recent wave of good news for Cruise. Following an investment from Microsoft, Cruise acquired Voyage, an autonomous vehicle company. Voyage focuses on assisting retirement homes and communities. After testing in the dense urban environment of San Francisco, Cruise will now add Voyage’s expertise and testing from other settings. In April, it was announced that Cruise received an investment from Walmart. Additionally, Cruise was recently announced as the sole provider of self-driving taxis in Dubai until 2029. Cruise will use its newest vehicle, the Origin, for the taxis. The Origin will enter production in 2023 at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Michigan.
The Driverless Commute will continue to track developments with Cruise and the entire autonomous vehicle industry. For more information on autonomous vehicles and the approach of different states and nations, check out our Global Guide to Autonomous Vehicles and subscribe to the Driverless Commute.