Everything is about to change.
It may all be starting in San Francisco, California but it definitely won't end there. The self-driving car revolution is only beginning in this chosen city. Alphabet's Waymo and GM's subsidiary Cruise have both applied for permits to begin charging for rides and delivery services in the Golden Gate City. Reuters reports the two rivals have not disclosed when testing will get underway, but state documents have been seen that confirm their respective applications.
The two companies are taking slightly different approaches. Waymo, which will continue to use modified versions of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and Jaguar I-Pace EV, will begin with "driver operations," meaning there will be a human being behind the wheel serving as a safety/backup driver. Cruise, on the other hand, is going completely human-less.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles is still viewing the applications and it shouldn't be too long until there's a verdict. Neither company would bother applying if they didn't feel 100 percent certain their technology is up to the task. They're fully aware of the amount of scrutiny they'll face and what's at stake. Waymo has been operating near Phoenix, Arizona since 2019 with paid-for driverless rides that users can hail through an app. Some industry watchers are actually surprised it's taken this long for Waymo to scale up its operations.
Cruise has mostly focused its testing in San Francisco and has logged an impressive two million autonomous miles operating in the city. Why San Francisco? Because it's a densely populated city and that means greater potential revenue.
Operating in a more suburban area, as Waymo did, is less profitable. An autonomous vehicle can complete an awful lot more deliveries in a city compared to the suburbs. Assuming the California DMV approves their permits, the last thing needed for approval is a green light from the California Public Utilities Commission. Getting this will allow them to charge passengers.
Waymo says it intends to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week by offering rides or handling deliveries on roads with speed limits up to 65 mph. Driverless mode could be turned off in certain situations, such as bad weather and on "certain routes." Cruise will operate only in the late evening and early morning but its vehicles won't surpass 30 mph.
You can also read about the pros and cons of self-driving cars.