California permits Waymo, Cruise for passenger service in autonomous vehicles
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued permits to General Motors-backed self-driving unit Cruise, and Alphabet-backed Waymo to start passenger service in autonomous vehicles with safety drivers present.
Both the self-driving units are now under Drivered Deployment permits and are authorized to collect fares from passengers and may offer shared rides to them. Prior to this announcement, Cruise and Waymo were allowed to provide passenger service only on a testing basis and no fare collection was permitted.
Starting this week, Cruise is allowed to provide the "Drivered Deployment" service on some public roads in San Francisco between 10 pm and 6 am at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, while Waymo can offer service in parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour, CPUC stated. However, neither company is allowed to operate during heavy fog or heavy rain.
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Earlier this month, GM and Cruise had petitioned US regulators to allow them to deploy a limited number of self-driving vehicles on US streets without human controls like steering wheels or brake pedals. Cruise mentioned that this will help in the expansion of mobility options for people who face obstacles in transportation, including senior and blind people.
Last month, General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra and President Mark Reuss took rides in two fully-autonomous vehicles of Cruise. Barra was driven around San Francisco as Cruise co-founder and interim CEO Kyle Vogt accompanied her in a car called ‘Tostada’. Reuss took a ride with GM’s VP of communications, Craig Buchholz, in another car called “Disco."
As the executives took a ride in the driverless vehicles around the city, Barra seemed surprised at the efficiency of the driverless vehicle. A YouTube video showed that on her way into the car, she peeked in through the window and reflected on the strangeness of a vehicle moving without a driver.
(with inputs from Reuters)