The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) said Friday (pdf) It has authorized General Motors’ self-driving vehicle company Cruise to offer driverless passenger services to the public in its robotaxis.
The CPUC said Cruise is the first participant in its driverless pilot program, which will allow companies to test-drive vehicles without drivers. Under the terms of the program, Cruise is not allowed to charge passengers for the rides and the company is required to submit quarterly reports to the CPUC on the vehicles’ activities.
Cruise tested its driverless vehicles in San Francisco, and last month license applied for which the company can charge for autonomous rides and deliveries in the area. The company unveiled its Cruise Origin last year, a prototype vehicle with no steering wheel, pedals or other controls typical of human driving. It is scheduled to begin production at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant from early 2023. Currently, most Cruise’s driverless test vehicles are Chevrolet Bolt EVs.
In addition to cruising, seven other companies, which includes Google spinoff Waymo, Amazon-owned Zoox, and Aurora, have CPUC permits to test driverless vehicles on California roads, but only Cruise is allowed to offer rides to passengers without a driver on board.
In California, companies need permits from both the CPUC and the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to test driverless vehicles (and eventually get the passenger-carrying vehicles on the road). A total of 55 companies have active licenses of the DMV to test driverless vehicles in California, including Cruise, but so far Nuro is the only company to receive a deployment permit from the DMV that allows it to commercially operate its autonomous vehicles in California. However, this deployment permit does not allow Nuro to transport passengers.
In January, Microsoft announced a long-term strategic partnership with Cruise, saying it was participating in a $2 billion financing round that would bring Cruise’s valuation to $30 billion.