By Neal E. Boudette
New York Times
Regulators in California on Friday released a proposal that would allow a division of General Motors, Cruise, to begin offering driverless taxi rides to paying customers in San Francisco later this year. It would be the first such service allowed on public roads in the state.
The California Public Utilities Commission said Friday that it would begin accepting public comment on the proposal, and would vote on it on or after June 2.
Cruise was allowed to begin charging customers for driverless rides in San Francisco this year, but only with a safety driver present. The new proposal would allow the company to operate those cars without drivers at certain times and in certain places.
“The fleet has traveled in driverless mode about 40 times the distance from San Francisco to New York City, and Cruise is using the learnings to drive continuous improvement,” Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, said in a statement this week.
Cruise currently uses Chevrolet Bolt compact cars equipped with technology that allows them to drive without input from safety drivers sitting in front of steering wheels. The company is also testing prototypes of the Cruise Origin, an automated vehicle that has no steering wheel or pedals. GM is expected to begin producing the Origin later this year at a factory in Detroit.
The utilities commission’s proposal would allow Cruise to offer rides in cars without safety drivers on select streets in San Francisco between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., a time when the cars would encounter less traffic and fewer pedestrians and bicyclists. Cruise would be authorized to collect fares but would not be allowed to carry passengers sharing a ride and traveling to different destinations.
Waymo, the automated vehicle company owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has been testing a driverless taxi service in the Phoenix suburbs, and is planning to expand its tests to San Francisco. Ford Motor and Volkswagen are also collaborating on driverless taxi and delivery services through Argo AI, a technology company partly owned by the two automakers.
GM is hoping Cruise’s driverless taxi service turns into a vast new business. Last fall Barra outlined a plan to double GM’s revenue to about $280 billion a year by 2030. GM is also expecting growth from sales of electric vehicles, new automotive software and services, and new lines of business such as insurance.
Cruise is majority-owned by GM. Other investors, including Honda and the investment firm T. Rowe Price, have minority stakes in the division.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.