Google’s Waymo and GM’s Cruise have secured approval from California’s regulators to be able to charge fares for fully driverless rides any time of the day in San Francisco. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has voted 3 to 1 in favor of allowing the companies to expand their driverless services after evaluating whether they had met the licensing requirements and hearing public testimonies arguing for and against the expansion.
Waymo said it’s going to “gradually welcom[e] more riders into the service” and “begin charging fares for rider-only trips in the city” in the coming weeks.” Apparently, it already has 100,000 signups in its waitlist and expects demand to be “incredibly high,” so it wants to take an unhurried approach “to ensure riders receive a reliable service.” The company promises to make its fully autonomous trips “available to everyone over time.” Meanwhile, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said his company will continue collaborating with regulators to achieve their shared commitment to deliver “safer, cleaner and more accessible transportation options.”
Thrilled to announce that the California Public Utilities Commission just approved @Cruise for fared operation 24/7 across all of San Francisco!
It’s a huge milestone for the AV industry, but even more importantly a signal to the country that CA prioritizes progress over our…
— Kyle Vogt (@kvogt) August 11, 2023
At the moment, Waymo is operating 200 cars in San Francisco, while Cruise has 300 vehicles in its autonomous fleet. Before securing CPUC’s approval, Cruise could only offer fared passenger rides in limited areas of San Francisco from 10 PM to 6AM without a safety driver onboard and paid rides any time with a safety driver. Waymo, on the the other hand, could only charge passengers any time of the day with a safety driver present.
According to The San Francisco Standard, commission President Alice Reynolds and commissioners Darcie Houck and John Reynolds voted in favor of the expansion. However, commissioner Genevieve Shiroma voted against it, arguing that the CPUC didn’t have sufficient information needed to be able to accurately evaluate the impact of autonomous vehicles on first responders. Their decision was the final hurdle the companies had to face to offer 24/7 fared rides across the city. It came after listening to public concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles and to testimonies about how the technology could help the elderly and people with disabilities be more independent.