California Department of Motor Vehicles approved General Motors-backed Cruise and Alphabet owned Waymo to begin charging for autonomous services offered by the public.
Cruise was issued a driverless deployment permit on Thursday. This permits it to receive compensation for services rendered without the presence of a safety operator in its front seat. Waymos' driverless deployment permit allows an operator to charge money for operating an AV. However, there is a driver in front of the vehicle. Although they are able to charge autonomous delivery services now, they are not yet able charge for robotaxi services. The last hurdle will require a permit by the California Public Utilities Commission, but Waymo and Cruise declined comment on a possible timeline for launching a ride-hailing business in SF.
They won't be the only ones who will make a living from their autonomous vehicles on California roads. Nuro, an autonomous delivery startup, was the first to be granted a permit by the California DMV in December 2020 to start a commercial driverless service.
Waymo and Cruise have been testing their AVs in public roads since 2015 and 2014. They also had a safety driver from October 2020 and October 2018, respectively. In June Cruise was granted permission to provide driverless rides in California for passengers. Since then, the company has offered its employees free rides every month. Waymo also launched its Trusted Tester program, which allowed San Franciscans to borrow an autonomous Jaguar I-Pace vehicle with a safety driver for free.
The company's most recent authorization allows it to use its fleet autonomous Chevy Bolt-based vehicles on public surfaces streets in certain areas of San Francisco between 10 pm and 6 am at a maximum speed limit of 30 mph. Waymo's fleet of light-duty AVs can be used on public roads in parts of SF or San Mateo counties with a speed limit up to 65 mph and no time restrictions. Both can be used in rain or light fog.
Waymo and Cruise declined to comment on the timing of a commercial service launch in the Bay Area, or whether they are planning to start a delivery service. Cruise and Walmart joined forces in Scottsdale, Arizona last November to deliver goods. Waymo Vias local delivery company has been operating in Phoenix, Arizona, since January 2020. It also has a trained operator aboard. They provide services for clients such as UPS and AutoNation.