Cruise Origin driverless bus
General Motors-backed Cruise is seeking final approval from California to begin marketing its fleet of automated taxis in San Francisco.
The self-driving car startup said Friday that it has filed a permit to deploy an autonomous vehicle with the California Public Utilities Commission. It’s the last of six permits required by the CPCU and California DMV to begin charging the public for rides.
It is unclear how long the review and approval process may take. Cruise is the first company to apply for a permit. Cruise CEO Dan Ammann recently said the company expects to begin commercial marketing early next year, pending regulatory approval.
If approved, Cruise could become the first company to operate a fleet of taxis without human drivers. Alphabet-backed Waymo has also won approval from the California DMV to charge for the robots to ride, but their permit still requires a “safety driver” to be in the car in the event of a problem.
Under the latest permit, cruise vehicles can operate on public roads in certain parts of San Francisco between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., including under light rain or light fog. However, it cannot exceed 30 miles per hour, according to the DMV.
Marketing self-driving vehicles has been more difficult than many expected even a few years ago, but Waymo and Cruz are among the top contenders.
Cruise was expected to launch passenger service to the public in San Francisco in 2019. The company delayed those plans that year to conduct further testing and obtain necessary regulatory approvals.
GM Cruze test cars
Source: General Motors
Cruise was first granted a DMV permit for autonomous vehicles in June 2015. Since then, it has slowly expanded its test sites and expanded its fleet to hundreds of autonomous vehicles, with additional permits obtained.
Cruze’s current fleet includes electric Chevrolet Bolt EVs that have been modified with self-driving vehicle software and additional technologies, such as cameras, radars and lidars that allow vehicles to “see” their surroundings.
Its upcoming fleet of vehicles is expected to consist of the Cruise Origin, a rectangular shuttle-like craft that was only designed as an autonomous vehicle. Oman said earlier this year that GM is expected to start production of the Origin for Cruise in early 2023.
General Motors acquired Cruise in 2016. Since then, it has attracted investors such as Honda Motor, Softbank Vision Fund, and more recently Walmart and Microsoft.