California to allow Cruise to operate driverless test vehicles
Cruise Origin driverless shuttle
Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company majority owned by General Motors, may soon offer rides in driverless test vehicles to passengers in California.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said Friday that Cruise was authorized to drive passengers in prototype robotaxis.
In a public statement, the CPUC said Cruise is the first developer of autonomous vehicles to obtain such a permit. In order to allow passengers to board their test vehicles without a driver on board, Cruise may not charge a fee for trips and will be required to submit quarterly reports on its autonomous vehicles, as well as a passenger safety plan, a declared the CPUC.
As CNBC previously reported, Cruise expects production of its driverless Origin shuttles to start in early 2023. The company’s test fleet currently consists of hundreds of Chevrolet Bolt EV, which are equipped with Cruise’s driverless technology.
Waymo, the alphabet autonomous car unit, and Cruise are both researching the necessary permits to start billing for trips and deliveries using their autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, according to a Reuters report in May.
Alongside Cruise, seven other companies, including Waymo, Amazon– owned Zoox and Aurora, have permits of the CPUC for testing driverless vehicles on California roads, but they are not yet permitted to operate public cabs without a driver on board.
Autonomous vehicle developers need separate licenses from the Department of Motor Vehicles and the CPUC to test and eventually commercially operate their driverless cars in the state.
Although it is taking longer than expected to commercialize due to technical, safety and regulatory hurdles, the biggest tech and automotive companies continue to invest heavily in autonomous vehicles. Earlier this year, Cruise raised billions of dollars from strategic funders, including Microsoft, Honda and Walmart.