Skip to main content

GM Cruise given nod to test fully driverless cars in San Francisco

It’s time to drive change

General Motors’ autonomous vehicle unit, Cruise, will start testing fully driverless cars on the streets of San Francisco before the end of 2020.

Cruise CEO Dan Ammann made the announcement in a video posted on Thursday, October 15.

While Cruise has been testing its driverless technology on the streets of several U.S. cities for the last four years or so, it’s always had to have a safety driver behind the wheel in case something goes wrong.

But a new permit, issued this week by California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), allows Cruise to send its cars out without anyone behind the wheel.

There are, however, various conditions attached to the permit. For example, Cruise’s autonomous vehicles will have to keep to specific San Francisco streets, travel at speeds of no more than 30 mph, and stay off the road in thick fog or heavy rain.

In a blog post offering more details about this week’s development, Ammann weaved in concerns about the climate and road safety, saying how electric, autonomous vehicles have the potential to transform polluted, busy, and dangerous city streets for the better.

“In the months ahead, if you happen to see any of our cars out on the road, go ahead and wave,” Ammann wrote in his post. “There might not be anyone inside, but they see you too, and appreciate your support as they drive change for us all.”

General Motor’s Cruise unit isn’t the first to be issued a permit by California’s DMV to test unmanned vehicles — others include Waymo, Zoox, and Nuro — but it could become the first to put them on a San Francisco street. At a wider level, more than 50 companies currently have permits to test driverless cars on California roads, but the vast majority require the presence of a safety driver.

In Arizona, meanwhile, Alphabet-owned Waymo is already testing fully driverless vehicles in a part of Phoenix, and has plans to expand the program soon.

Regulatory barriers suggest that before personal ownership of self-driving cars becomes widespread, we’re more likely to see automakers rolling out ridesharing services using driverless cars under strict guidelines and in tightly controlled areas.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Cruise’s robot taxis head to Arizona and Texas
A passenger getting into a Cruise robotaxi.

Cruise’s autonomous cars are heading to Texas and Arizona before the end of this year.

The General Motors-owned company plans to launch ridesharing pilots in Austin and Phoenix in what will be its first expansion of the service outside of San Francisco.

Read more
A weird thing just happened with a fleet of autonomous cars
A passenger getting into a Cruise robotaxi.

In what must be one of the weirder stories linked to the development of autonomous vehicles, a fleet of Cruise self-driving cars gathered together at an intersection in San Francisco earlier this week, parked up, and blocked traffic for several hours. And to be clear: No, they weren't supposed to do that.

Some observers may have thought they were witnessing the start of the robot uprising, but the real reason for the mishap was more prosaic: An issue with the platform's software.

Read more
Watch folks react to their first ride in GM Cruise’s driverless car
Two people taking their first ride in an autonomous car.

General Motors autonomous car unit, Cruise, has started to offer driverless rides to residents of San Francisco as it moves toward the launch of a full-fledged robo-taxi service.

Following a test run of the service last week, Cruise has released a video (below) showing the reaction of the very first passengers as they rode through the streets of the Californian city in a vehicle that had nobody behind the wheel.

Read more