Cruise, General Motors’ self-driving company, has been approved to test its driverless cars on public roads in California. The company plans to test vehicles without a human safety driver behind the wheel before the end of 2020.
Cruise is the fifth to receive driverless approval from the State Department of Motor Vehicles. The others are Waymo, Nuro, Zoox, and AutoX. Currently, 60 companies have active permits to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver in California.
Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said in a blog post that the company may not be the first company to receive driverless approval, but it does aim to be the first to test fully driverless cars in San Francisco.
“Before the end of the year we will be sending cars onto the streets of SF – without gasoline and without anyone behind the wheel,” said Ammann. “Because safely removing the driver is the true yardstick of a self-driving car and because burning fossil fuels is not a way of shaping the future of transportation.” (Cruise’s fleet of vehicles consists of 200 electric Chevy Bolts.)
A spokesman couldn’t say whether a safety driver would stay in the vehicle’s passenger seat during the test or whether Cruise would use chase vehicles to track his driverless cars. These details, as well as the service area within Cruise’s San Francisco geofence (the invisible walls that determine where the vehicle can operate) are yet to be revealed, she said.
However, the approval of the DMV is subject to its own restrictions. Cruise is allowed to “test five autonomous vehicles with no drivers behind the wheel on certain streets in San Francisco,” the agency said. “The vehicles are designed to operate on roads with speed limits not exceeding 30 mph at any time of the day or night, but do not test in heavy fog or heavy rain.”
A DMV spokesperson did not immediately respond to a question about the streets that Cruise’s vehicles will be restricted to. Companies that get these driverless permits will be required to provide proof of insurance or $ 5 million bond and follow various other rules such as: B. training remote operators on the technology.
Cruise has not yet publicly demonstrated its fully driverless vehicles, unlike rival Waymo, which just last week announced it would be bringing its fully driverless hail service to more customers in Phoenix, Arizona.
Cruise does not allow non-employees to drive in their vehicles either. The company had planned to launch a public self-driving taxi service in 2019, but it didn’t. Cruise has not yet set a new date for the launch of its public Robotaxi service.
California approval was granted before the federal government is considering a separate request from Cruise to use a fleet of fully driverless Chevy Bolt vehicles with no steering wheels or pedals. In 2019, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it would seek public comments and conduct a review, but has yet to make a final decision.
Last year, Cruise unveiled the Cruise Origin, a completely driverless prototype with no steering wheel, pedals, or controls normally associated with human driving. The vehicle, which will go into production at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant, can be shared by several passengers. However, it remains to be seen how great the appetite for shared vehicles will be in a post-COVID world.