California issues permits to Cruise, Waymo for autonomous vehicle service


A Cruise self-driving car, which is owned by General Motors Corp, is seen outside the company’s headquarters in San Francisco where it does most of its testing, in California, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Heather Somerville

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on Monday issued permits to self-driving units of General Motors and Alphabet Inc to allow for passenger service in autonomous vehicles with safety drivers present.

CPUC said the GM unit Cruise and Alphabet's Waymo are under Drivered Deployment permits authorized to collect fares from passengers and may offer shared rides. Prior to the announcement Cruise and Waymo had been permitted to provide passenger service only on a testing basis with no fare collection permitted.

Starting Monday, Cruise is allowed to provide the "Drivered Deployment" service on some public roads in San Francisco between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, while Waymo can offer service in parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour, CPUC said. Neither company is allowed to operate during heavy fog or heavy rain.

Earlier this month, GM and Cruise petitioned U.S. regulators for permission to deploy a limited number of self-driving vehicles without human controls like steering wheels or brake pedals.

Waymo on Monday said it would use what it has learned operating its autonomous commercial ride hail service in Arizona and apply it "to our growing service in San Francisco."

Waymo said it has tens of thousands of riders on a waitlst in California after it launched a tester program in August. "We’ll begin offering paid trips through the program in the coming weeks," the company said.

Prashanthi Raman, Cruise's vice president for global government affairs, said in a statement the announcement was "another positive incremental step forward. Our mission has always been to launch a driverless commercial ridehail service here in San Francisco, and that’s what we’ll continue working with our regulators to deliver."

Cruise has not received a response from the CPUC on its request for a driverless deployment permit.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler & Shri Navaratnam)

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