California will allow Cruise to give rides in driverless test vehicles

Cruise Origin driverless shuttle

cruise

Cruise, the majority-owned General Motors autonomous vehicle company, may soon offer driverless test vehicle rides to California passengers.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced Friday that Cruise was authorized to take passengers with prototypes of robotic taxis.

In a public statement, the CPUC said that Cruise will be the first autonomous vehicle developer to receive such approval. To allow passengers to ride their test vehicles without a driver on board, Cruise will not be allowed to charge for the rides and must submit quarterly reports on its autonomous vehicles as well as a passenger safety plan, the CPUC said.

As CNBC previously reported, Cruise expects production of its driverless shuttles Origin to begin in early 2023. The company’s test fleet currently includes hundreds of Chevrolet Bolt EVs equipped with Cruise’s driverless technology.

Waymo, Alphabet’s Self-Driving Car Unit, and Cruise are both looking for permits needed to top up rides and deliveries with their autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, according to a May Reuters report.

In addition to Cruise, seven other companies, including Waymo, Zoox, and Aurora-owned by Amazon, have CPUC approvals for driverless vehicle testing on California roads, but they’re not yet allowed to roll the public without a driver on board.

Autonomous vehicle developers require separate permits from the Department of Motor Vehicles and CPUC to test their driverless cars in the state and eventually operate them commercially.

Although commercialization is taking longer than expected due to technical, safety and regulatory hurdles, the largest technology and automotive companies continue to invest heavily in autonomous vehicles. Earlier this year, Cruise raised billions of dollars from strategic funders like Microsoft, Honda, and Walmart.

CLOCK: Microsoft is investing in GM’s Cruise to accelerate self-driving cars

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