General Motors Company’s Cruise has on Thursday bagged a permit to carry riders in driverless cars for a fee. This makes them the first company to get this in San Francisco after jumping the hurdle of objections from city officials.
It is no more a strange occurrence to see self-driving test cars with human safety drivers in San Francisco. In fact totally driverless cars are also becoming a common occurrence.
This makes the industry a fast growing one and signifies a huge step towards the actualization of driverless taxi service.
Obtaining the permit in California was the last part remaining for Cruise to launch this service and now they have it.
Having gotten the permit, they have revealed that they plan to commence operations in the next few weeks. They will begin with about 30 driverless Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles.
The permit was unanimously approved in a 4-0 vote on Thursday by the California Public Utilities Commission.
During the meeting, Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen pointed out that the panel has maintained a careful stance in their approach to the regulation of autonomous cars.
He added that this decision further buttresses the fact that the panel is taking gradual steps and this equally provides the staff with the avenue to collect vital data that will be very necessary for the actualization of future phases.
Some of the guidelines that these vehicles will have to operate by include not exceeding a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour i.e 48 km per hour. They must operate in a geographic area that avoids downtown, operate within the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and are not allowed to operate on highways or during times of precipitation, smoke or heavy fog.
There has been support of this venture from disability and business groups. Also the staff for the state commission believes that this proposal by Cruise took into consideration the safety of passengers.
Expressing some concerns that some behavior of the vehicles could cause harm to people, San Francisco fire, police and transit officials clamored for restrictions by the state regulators.
They proposed that before Cruise can go into the business they should get more approval to include additional vehicles and also have a new working team of both local and state officials.
According to the local officials, an instance that fueled this concern occurred in April when a Cruise AV blocked a San Francisco fire engine that was on its way to a three-alarm fire for a little while.
Also, some days before that incidence a driverless Cruise car stopped by police drove away before the police officer was done. According to Cruise, their cars made safe choices.
Although since 2018, Alphabet Inc’s Waymo has been charging for rides in suburban Phoenix, Cruise’s proposal to commence in San Francisco is seen by tech experts to be more challenging.
The reason for this is because San Francisco is a more densely populated area. It is also a hilly and quite unpredictable area, thus posing a greater challenge.
However, there has been a pressing concern that self-driving cars are not always able to properly predict the reaction of humans to changing events for instance actions of the car.
According to a former employee of Cruise, this issue has been branded the ‘couples problem’ by Cruise.