Image courtesy of Cruise

The rise of automated vehicle technology is here to stay, and it is expected that autonomous driving for private and fleet vehicles will grow in the forthcoming years, therefore AV companies need to ensure they provide safe and efficient transportation. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA)states;

Fully automated cars and trucks that drive us, instead of us driving them, will become a reality.

It has now been confirmed that Cruise, a self-driving car service based in San Francisco, has been authorised by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to offer “driverless” autonomous vehicle passenger service in which members of the public can ride in a test vehicle that operates without a driver in the vehicle.

Passengers who wish to try the driverless vehicles won’t be charged for any rides in tests AVs. Cruise said via their twitter account;

We’re honored to be the first to receive a permit from the CPUC to provide a driverless autonomous vehicle passenger service here in California

This program launching in San Francisco is California’s first pilot program, the goal is for AV companies to test and develop their technologies, while providing for the safety and consumer protection of passengers of commercial operators within the CPUC’s jurisdiction.

Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma said via statement;

Issuance of this first driverless permit for the CPUC’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot Programs is a significant milestone. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to transform our transportation system and communities by solving individual mobility needs, improving roadway safety, and moving goods throughout the state sustainably and efficiently. The effective deployment of autonomous vehicles can also transform vehicle manufacturing, maintenance, and service business models to create new jobs and industries for the California workforce.

CPUC has confirmed that Cruise has already obtained an Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program Manufacturer’s Testing Permit – Driverless Vehicles from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The DMV’s permit is a prerequisite for all AV testing, and it is separate and distinct from the CPUC’s permit, which is an additional requirement only for carriers wishing to transport members of the public in AVs.

Companies participating in the pilot programme must submit quarterly reports to the CPUC about the operation of their vehicles providing driverless AV passenger service. They must also submit a Passenger Safety Plan that outlines their plans for protecting passenger safety for driverless operations. So far, eight companies have been granted permits for testing AVs in the State. However, Cruise is the only company, which will be offering riders to passengers without a safety driver on board.

If this makes you feel uneasy and don’t yet trust a car that does all the driving, fear not, as the AVs have to have a link to a remote safety operator.

Cruise was founded in 2013 and it currently employs almost 2,000 people. The company has more than 300 all-electric AVs in San Francisco and Phoenix. They claim their AVs are simple, safe, reliable and passengers should just relax as their AVs detect, predict, and respond to the movement of people, animals, and objects faster than any human brain.

San Franciscans may have already seen Cruise AVs around as the company has been building an all-electric, self-driving car service which needed time to get to know the city and figure out the best ways to safely drive passengers.Now, you can finally join them.