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Monday / 17 January 2022
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Big step forward for self-driving cars

Cruise, the self-driving vehicle startup majority-owned by General Motors, and Alphabet’s Waymo have received permits to charge for autonomous vehicle services in California, advancing the efforts of both companies to build a robo-taxi business.

The permit issued to Cruise lets the company charge for driverless freight services in parts of San Francisco, the California Department of Motor Vehicles said Thursday in a statement.

Waymo can operate self-driving vehicles with a safety driver in parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties, Waymo and the department said.

Both companies need a permit from the California Public Utility Commission to transport people for fares without a safety driver.

The permits show that after years of slogging toward revenue-generating autonomous ride-hailing services, Cruise and Waymo have made enough technical progress to get regulatory approval to charge the public.

Cruise is a step ahead in California because its permit allows the company to operate cars without a safety driver.

“Today’s approval from the California DMV makes Cruise one of the first autonomous ride-hail companies to receive a driverless deployment permit in the state,” Rob Grant, senior vice president of government affairs for Cruise, said in a statement.

“It brings us one step closer to achieving our mission to make transportation safer, better, and more affordable in cities with our fleet of all-electric, self-driving, and shared vehicles.”

With the permit, Cruise’s vehicles may operate on public roads between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at a top speed limit of 30 miles per hour (48km/h) and can drive in light rain and light fog.

Cruise received permission to test autonomous vehicles on public roads with a safety driver in 2015 and without a driver in October 2020.

Cruise has been working to start ride-hailing services with its self-driving cars. The company announced a deal to offer rides in Dubai in 2023. The company also acquired startup Voyage in March in an effort to acquire tech talent.

Waymo’s vehicles may operate on public roads at a top speed of 65 mph (105km/h) and can also drive in rain and light fog.

Waymo received state authority to test self-driving vehicles on public roads with a safety driver in 2014 and gained a driverless testing permit in October 2018.

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