This may sound terrifying to some (and rightly so), but the decade of commercial autonomous robotaxi service has arrived; as of June, Cruise was recognized as the first business to provide paid autonomous rides to the general public in a big city. The achievement follows Cruise’s official license to use driverless technology for commercial purposes from the California Public Utilities Commission in early June.
In a blog post, the company shared:
“A commercial AV ridehail service is three things: driverless, public, and fared. Last fall, our CEO Kyle Vogt took the first fully driverless ride; in February we began welcoming members of the public to experience our service; and now we’re going commercial. […] Today, we received the first-ever Driverless Deployment Permit granted by the California Public Utilities Commission, which allows us to charge a fare for the driverless rides we are providing to members of the public here in San Francisco. This means that Cruise will be the first and only company to operate a commercial, driverless ridehail service in a major U.S. city. Now with this approval, we’ll begin rolling out fared rides gradually, expanding in alignment with the smoothest customer experience possible. As always, our focus is on delivering a magical and safe service for our riders.”
At first, Cruise’s driverless autonomous service will only be available between the hours of 10PM and 6AM, and only on specific city streets. However, the restrictions are a part of a strategy by authorities and the corporation to demonstrate the security and effectiveness of their technology before using it in more places and at more times. When compared to the free offer of the driverless test service it provided between June of last year and the launch of this paid service, the expanded operating window already increases its overall active time by 1.5 hours.
In a tweet, Cruise shared: “If you’re waiting to take your first driverless ride, we’re inviting more people into our AVs each week, so sit tight— it’ll be worth it!” along with a video of passengers in the car.
UPDATE: As of last night, fared rides are now rolling out to our customers in SF.
— cruise (@Cruise) June 23, 2022
Though on so many levels this counts as exhilarating news, we also can’t help but think of the future of automation and how it may potentially make several human jobs obsolete. This is of course a great alternative for people with disabilities, but the fact that many cab drivers will potentially lose their jobs sounds terrifyingly dystopic.
In case you missed it, hospital robots are helping nurses with burnout.
Photo via GM/Cruise