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Cruise hit a big milestone on Wednesday night when it began charging passengers for robotaxi rides in San Francisco.
“For the first time, we had members of the public use their phones, summon a driverless robotaxi, so a car pulls up with no one inside it, and they went for a ride,” Kyle Vogt, the co-founder and CEO of Cruise, said in an interview with CNBC. “These were fared rides. So Cruise is officially open for business.”
That company received a Drivered Deployment permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in March, allowing it to charge customers fares for their services as long as there is a safety driver present in the vehicles.
At the beginning of June, Cruise received a Phase I Driverless Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Deployment permit, allowing the company to charge for driverless rides. This is the first of such permit that the CPUC has issued.
Currently, Cruise’s fares are similar to those you would be charged for a Lyft or Uber ride in San Francisco, according to Vogt, but the company hopes to bring the price down over time.
Last night we collected our first fares from driverless robotaxi rides – a first in any major US city.
Next up: bigger fleet, larger service area, more fun https://t.co/bjrBOCXbBx
— Kyle Vogt (@kvogt) June 23, 2022
Cruise is able to charge for driverless rides in about a third of San Francisco, primarily in the northwestern part of the city, between 10 PM and 6 AM. The company’s fleet includes about 30 fully autonomous robotaxis. Vogt hopes that the company can expand it hours and area of operation throughout the year to eventually cover the whole city.
According to Vogt, Cruise’s first paying customers had positive reactions to the driverless rides, and even left some five-star reviews. Vogt said that after a few minutes, customers adjusted to the novelty of having no driver in the seat, and appreciated the privacy they had while in the cab.
Cruise currently has the service open to a limited number of the public, and those located in San Francisco and trying out an autonomous ride for themselves can sign up for the company’s waitlist.
Cruise’s journey in San Francisco
The company began testing its service, with safety drivers, in San Francisco in June 2021, and has since been making incremental movements towards this week’s milestone. In November 2021, Vogt became the first to hail Cruise’s first driverless robotaxi.
Cruise continued to test its service with employees until February 2022, when it opened its driverless service to the San Francisco public.
San Francisco has been a popular testing spot for autonomous vehicles because of the city’s difficult driving environment. Cruise’s plan has been to start with some of the most difficult driving situations so that its technology can adapt to simpler situations.
Waymo has also been slowly rolling out its service in San Francisco. It began limited tests in February 2021, and received a Drivered Deployment permit from the CPUC at the same time as Cruise. Waymo has operated a robotaxi service in Chandler, Ariz. since late 2018 and charges its passengers.