The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has granted Waymo and Cruise permission to start operating commercial robotaxi services as long as there's a safety driver in the car. The companies can now pick up passengers and charge for rides. They can also offer shared rides.
Under the Drivered Deployment permits, GM-owned Cruise can operate robotaxi services on certain roads in San Francisco between 10PM and 6AM with a speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Alphabet's Waymo, on the other hand, can run a robotaxi service around the clock in certain areas of San Francisco and San Mateo counties. Its automated vehicles can travel at up to 65 miles per hour. However, neither company's service can operate in heavy rain or fog.
Waymo says hundreds of riders have used a free version of the service since it started a trial program in August, while tens of thousands are on the waitlist. It plans to start offering paid trips in the coming weeks. The company says it will take what it learned from running its first commercial self-driving car service in Arizona to bolster its San Francisco operations.
"This is another positive incremental step forward. Our mission has always been to launch a driverless commercial ridehail service here in San Francisco, and that’s what we’ll continue working with our regulators to deliver," Cruise vice-president of global government affairs Prashanthi Raman said in a statement.
Both companies have been testing driverless rides in San Francisco, but they can't offer commercial services without safety drivers in California just yet. Cruise has applied for to the CPUC for a Driverless Deployment permit.
Update 3/1 2:18PM ET: Added Cruise's statement.