The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has issued GM’s Cruise the permit needed to be able to give passengers a ride without a driver behind the wheel. It’s the first time (PDF) the commission has issued a permit of this kind, and it’s a significant milestone for the CPUC’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot Programs. Waymo and Cruise’s other rivals already have “drivered” permits from the regulator, but they also have to secure this “driverless” permit to enable fully autonomous rides with passengers onboard. That said, Cruise can’t start charging customers just yet.
As Prashanthi Raman, Cruise’s director of Government Affairs, explained to TechCrunch:
“In order to launch a commercial service for passengers here in the state of California, you need both the California DMV and the California PUC to issue deployment permits. Today we are honored to have been the first to receive a driverless autonomous service permit to test transporting passengers from the California PUC.”
If you take a look at DMV’s website, Cruise, along with Baidu, Waymo and several other autonomous vehicle companies, have the permit needed to do full driverless testing. However, they still have one more hurdle to overcome before they can run a robotaxi service in the state: Securing a deployment permit. At the moment, only Nuro has been cleared to operate a commercial service in California. Since the company’s vehicles will only be used to shuttle goods and not passengers, it didn’t have to go through CPUC’s permitting process anymore.
Back in May, Reuters reported that both Waymo and Cruise already submitted an application for the DMV’s deployment permit earlier this year. If successful, they’ll both be able to start offering the public paid deliveries and paid passenger rides.