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Cruise scored a huge win today when it became the first “driverless” autonomous vehicle (AV) passenger service to be authorized to operate in California. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) authorized Cruise, LLC to participate in California’s first pilot program. The CPUC’s Driverless Pilot program enables passengers to ride in a test vehicle that operates without a driver in the vehicle. One of the constraints of the program is that Cruise may not charge passengers for any rides in test AVs.
Opening the door for autonomous vehicles
Cruise may be the first to secure the operating permit, but its competitors aren’t far behind. Until now, California has been very cautious about the deployment of autonomous vehicles on public roads, even when many of the AV companies are headquartered in California and operate test grounds there. Some companies, like Waymo, have been more welcome in areas like Phoenix AZ, where Waymo has been operating (and charging for) driverless passenger services for a while. This market is expected grow as more companies mature their technology, and it is safely demonstrated to the public. The CPUC’s pilot programs are intended to allow AV companies to develop their technologies on a test basis, while providing for the safety and consumer protection of passengers of commercial operators within the CPUC’s jurisdiction.
parking permit, roofing permit, building permit… all kind of dull, really.
— Kyle Vogt (@kvogt) June 4, 2021
“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,” said Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma. “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.”
As required, 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, which is a necessary prerequisite for all AV testing, 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 must submit quarterly reports to the CPUC about the operation of their vehicles providing driverless AV passenger service. Companies must also submit a Passenger Safety Plan that outlines their plans for protecting passenger safety for driverless operations.
Cruise’s permit is available at www.cpuc.ca.gov/avcissued.
More information on the CPUC’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot Programs is available at www.cpuc.ca.gov/avcpilotinfo.
If you like this story, be sure to listen to a recent episode of The Robot Report Podcast where we interview a passenger who experienced a glitch during a recent Waymo trip.