The future is here.
Last year, Cruise made headlines when it obtained permission to deploy a fleet of driverless Chevrolet Bolt EVs. This allowed the company to trial an autonomous taxi service and, despite a minor hiccup or two, things have been going very well for the GM-owned tech operation.
In January, Mary Barra got a chance to experience the self-driving Bolt taxi and came away impressed. "I always believed that we'd be doing it, but to actually be doing it, it's just surreal," she said at the time. Barra must be particularly pleased with Cruise's progress, as the company has now been granted a Driverless Deployment Permit from the California Public Utilities Commission.
This means, for the first time, the company will be able to charge for driverless fares. For now, the service will be limited to the city of San Francisco but it's still a massive achievement for the company. This makes Cruise the first company to operate a driverless ride-share service in a major American city.
We should note that Waymo was also granted permission to do this back in 2020, although its driverless Chrysler Pacifica taxis are currently available in smaller cities found in Arizona. Cruise is yet to announce when the program will officially commence, but we expect it to happen soon, with the company noting it will "begin rolling out fared rides gradually."
San Franciscans can soon look forward to a taste of the future - whether you like it or not, autonomous vehicles are on their way.
In February, Audi's Head of General Counsel Legal Services said she expects the first spate of autonomous vehicles to serve as public transport but remarked that private self-driving cars still have a long way to go. She cited safety concerns and regulations as the primary reasons for this delay, but Mercedes-Benz has shown us that it's not far off. The Stuttgart-based automaker recently introduced Level 3 self-driving to German S-Class and EQS owners. There are still limitations in place, but the system allows the driver to remove their hands from the wheel on certain stretches of motorway. The luxury brand hopes to introduce the technology in America shortly.
As for Cruise, it's a truly exciting development and we're happy to see the company take such a massive step into the future.