This summer, tourists will return to major US cities excited to see vibrant communities and noted landmarks. Down in Miami, the streets will be filled as people grab Cuban sandwiches on Calle Ocho, spend their afternoons on Miami Beach, and participate in the town’s storied nightlife. In Austin, visitors will listen to live music and sample local BBQ and Tex-Mex. In San Francisco, folks will walk the wharf and take in the beautiful bay while they eat sourdough and watch seals. In these places, it might feel like everything is truly getting back to normal after two years that have often felt like anything but ordinary.
However, visitors might not realize that some of the vehicles sharing the road are attractions worth the trip in and of themselves. In June, truly driverless vehicles, with no safety driver, hit the roads in Austin, Miami, and San Francisco. The vehicles are autonomous in the truest sense of the word and are ready to take visitors across town and into the future.
Argo AI launched level 4 autonomous vehicles in Austin and Miami, building on its partnership with Ford and Lyft. The vehicles are geofenced but can fully handle the driving task within that area. In Miami, the vehicles will encounter heavy traffic from other cars and will also have to navigate safe interactions with pedestrians and cyclists. These vehicles represent a major step forward for transportation as level 4 vehicles deploy among everyday pedestrians.
In San Francisco, Cruise, a GM autonomous vehicles spin-off, capped off a years-long process and became the first company to receive a permit to operate a paid driverless service in the city. Cruise has offered driverless rides in the city for months but will finally be able to commercialize their operation following this permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
The Cruise vehicles will be required to follow certain guidelines including a cap at 30 miles-per-hour. Additionally, they will only operate between 10 pm and 6 am and cannot drive in “heavy rain, heavy fog, heavy smoke, hail, sleet, or snow.” Cruise says it plans to commercialize its rides gradually.
Cruise’s latest victory represents a major milestone for the driverless vehicle industry. After years of work, some of the sternest regulatory agencies in the world have given the all-clear for Cruise to offer its services to the public at a fee. This proves that level 4 vehicles are not only possible, but are here and safe, according to the CPUC. As more autonomous vehicle companies can commercialize their products, the industry will grow and mature.
The autonomous vehicle industry is increasingly becoming an active part of our society and a real consideration in transportation equations. Level 4 vehicles are now roaming some of the largest cities in the US, and their presence will only serve to encourage others and move the industry forward.