Driverless taxis hit city streets

Close-up view from behind of General Motors Cruise self-driving car in the South of Market (SoMA) neighborhood of San Francisco, with Lidar and other sensors visible.

Close-up view from behind of General Motors Cruise self-driving car in the South of Market (SoMA) neighborhood of San Francisco, with Lidar and other sensors visible. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Image

California regulators gave Cruise the go-ahead to charge passengers to ride through San Francisco in its autonomous vehicles, but public safety skepticism remains.

The first company to launch robot taxi service in San Francisco, the center of the nation’s tech industry, is one controlled not by Uber or Google but by General Motors.

GM owns 80% of Cruise, the company that secured approval from California regulators last week to deploy a fleet of 30 autonomous vehicles in parts of San Francisco that can transport paying passengers without a driver on board.

Under rules established by the California Public Utilities Commission, Cruise can operate its self-driving cars at night, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., at a maximum speed of 30 mph, in weather that does not include heavy rain, heavy fog, heavy smoke, hail, sleet or snow. Cruise uses electric Chevrolet Bolts to ferry its passengers.

“This is another exciting step for our autonomous vehicle program,” said CPUC President Alice Reynolds said in a statement. “I look forward to further public engagement on the safe and equitable deployment of these innovative services as they mature through future reports and workshops.”

The regulators are requiring Cruise and other future autonomous vehicle taxi services to provide updates about the performance of the vehicles to the state. There have been occasional problems as Cruise introduced its autonomous vehicles to the city streets, perhaps most notably when police officers pulled over one of its cars in April for not having its headlights on. Police contacted company officials and did not issue a citation.

Cruise officials touted the approval from California regulators as a pivotal moment for the industry.

“This means that Cruise will be the first and only company to operate a commercial, driverless ridehail service in a major U.S. city,” wrote Gil West, the company’s chief operating officer, in a blog post. West said the company would roll out the new features gradually.

West also characterized the development as “a major milestone for the shared mission of the [autonomous vehicle] industry to improve life in our cities.”

Waymo, a company launched by Google, is also testing self-driving vehicles on San Francisco’s streets, but it has not yet secured permission to pick up paying passengers. Waymo is operating paid service in the Phoenix area.

Regulators’ give green light—but yellow lights remain

The green light from California regulators is good news for an industry that has long struggled to reach its lofty goals of safe streets and convenient rides.

Uber sold its self-driving car division in 2020, following a fatal crash of an Uber vehicle with an Arizona pedestrian in 2018 that brought widespread scrutiny to its operations.

Meanwhile, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has opened an investigation into Tesla over its “full self-driving” feature (which industry experts say overstates the feature’s abilities), because of several high-profile crashes that apparently occurred while the program was running. The status of the state investigation is unclear, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also investigating a May crash in California of a Tesla running the program that killed three people.

Daniel C. Vock is a senior reporter for Route Fifty based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: Reno mayor touts potential of blockchain, NFTs as city embarks on new pilot programs

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.