On June 4, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) granted autonomous car developer Cruise the ability to operate with passengers on public roads. While many driverless car startups operate on public roads in California now, GM-backed Cruise is the first to be able to carry passengers.
“The development of autonomous driving for private and fleet vehicles is expected to grow in the coming years as AV companies strive to provide safe, efficient transportation,” the CPUC said in a statement.
Cruise, which started testing in San Francisco in December at Level 4 autonomy, must still employ a human operator to take control if needed and the area of operation is limited. It looks like, at least initially, those rides will be free. According to the CPUC, Cruise is not allowed to charge passengers for the ride. Cruise must also submit quarterly reports to the CPUC on vehicle operation and a safety plan for passenger protection.
In 2020 Cruise debuted Origin, a driverless van with no pedals, steering wheel, or manual controls. These rides, however, will initially be delivered in Chevrolet Bolts.
The CPUC administers the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot Programs.
The "Drivered AV Passenger Service" pilot program allows for the provision of passenger service in test AVs with a driver in the vehicle. Under this program, a safety driver is available to assist with operations if needed.
Under the newer "Driverless AV Passenger Service" pilot program allows for the provision of passenger service in test AVs without a driver in the vehicle. Under this pilot program, a communication link between passengers and "remote operators" of the vehicle must be available and maintained at all times during passenger service.