GM's Cruise has received the first ever driverless deployment permit issued by the California Public Utilities Commission. That means the company can now charge for the robotaxi rides, ones with no safety driver behind the wheel, it gives to members of the public. Cruise has secured permission (PDF) to operate its paid passenger service at a max speed of 30 mph on select streets of San Francisco from 10PM to 6AM.
The company is expected to have 30 electric vehicles in its fleet, offering its ride-hailing passengers paid rides. Those cars aren't allowed to operate on highways, however, or during times of heavy fog and rain. In its announcement, the company said it will begin rolling out fared rides gradually, including to areas not currently covered by its permit.
A Cruise spokesperson told TechCrunch:
"In the coming months, we'll expand our operating domain, our hours of operation and our ability to charge members of the public for driverless rides until we have fared rides 24/7 across the entire city."
The company first received permission to offer passengers free robotaxi rides almost exactly a year ago and opened fully driverless ride-hailing to the public this February. In March, the CPUC gave Cruise (and Waymo) permission to start charging their passengers, but only for rides with a safety driver behind the wheel. Now, Cruise can charge customers even if there's nobody else onboard. The company called this development a "major milestone for the shared mission of the AV industry to improve life in [the] cities." It will also use this opportunity to gather data for the development of the project's future phases.