Employees of Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of General Motors, can now jump inside one of the company’s autonomous vehicles that are operated in San Francisco without a human driver in the front seat. Cruise co-founder, CTO and president Kyle Vogt was reportedly the first to ride, and he gushed about it all over Twitter.
“Around 11pm Monday night we launched an AV without anyone inside for the first time,” tweeted Vogt. “Until now we’ve been testing with humans in the driver’s or passenger’s seat, so this was a first. It began to roam around the city, waiting for a ride request. At 11:20pm I used the Cruise app and summoned my first ride. After a few minutes, one of the Cruise AVs (named Sourdough) drove up to me and pulled over. Nobody was inside the car. I pressed the ‘start ride’ button and the AV smoothly pulled back into traffic.”
Vogt also said he requested five more rides that night. The rides had to be at night because according to the stipulations of Cruise’s “driverless deployment permit” from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the company can only operate driverless between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Cruise received the permit in early October, which allows the company to deploy its vehicles without a human onboard, as well as charge fees for delivery services, but crucially not ride-hailing services.
Cruise’s first human-less deployment comes about a week after GM CEO Mary Barra said the company is confident that Cruise will begin commercial driverless ride-hailing and delivery operations by next year. Cruise is still waiting on a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to be able to charge for robotaxi services. Until such time, only Cruise employees will be riding around in Sourdough and other human-less AVs.
Cruise told TechCrunch it doesn’t break out numbers for how many driverless AVs are permitted, nor does it have any updates on when it expects to receive its final permit from CPUC.