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Cruise gets green light for commercial robot axis in San Francisco

Kyle Vogt, co-founder, president and chief technology officer of Cruise Automation Inc., speaks as he stands next to Cruise Origin’s electric driverless shuttle during a unveiling event in San Francisco, California, USA, on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty pictures

The autonomous vehicle company Cruise, which is majority-owned by General Motors, has just received the final permit it needed to offer its robotic taxi service to paying riders in San Francisco, the company announced on Thursday.

Cruise boasted in a blog post that the authorization is “the first driverless deployment permit ever granted by the California Public Utilities Commission,”[ads1]; making the company the first to operate a “commercial, driverless ridehail service in a major U.S. city.”

The company’s cars are fully electric and battery-powered, which is also a potential benefit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The company told CPUC in a letter from April 2021 that it aims to make California roads safer and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Previously, the California Department of Motor Vehicles approved permits for the deployment of autonomous vehicles for both Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo.

Cruise already offered night driving to the public in San Francisco in its driverless cars, although it had not yet demanded that passengers pay a ticket.

Police previously pulled a driverless vehicle from Cruise in San Franciso, and a video of the incident went viral. The California DMV told CNBC that despite this incident, by the end of April, the department had not yet issued a traffic fine to any driverless vehicle operator.

Rodney Brooks, professor emeritus of robotics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, drove in Cruise driverless taxis recently and wrote positively about the experience on his blog.

He said, in that post, “Cruise has put together an MVP, a ‘Minimal Viable Product,’ the lynchpin of successful technology.” He also specified that he does not think mass adoption of driverless cars is imminent. He wrote: “We have a way to go yet, and mass adoption may not be in the form of a one-to-one replacement of human driving that has driven this dream for the past decade or more.”

Cruise’s competitors are also testing driverless vehicles in San Francisco.

Alphabet’s Waymo has offered free driverless rides to employees or members of a test program in San Francisco. It has also made “tens of thousands” of driverless trips behind the wheel in Arizona.

Another driverless startup, focused on transporting goods instead of passengers, Nuro, has a deployment permit to operate driverless cars in San Francisco as well.

While Tesla CEO Elon Musk often praises the company’s ambitions to deliver cars “ready for robotic axes”, Tesla vehicles have a maximum of their Full Self Driving Beta program, an experimental driver assistance system, which requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel. and be aware of the road at all times.

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