You know that friend who talks about moving to California but never goes through with it? Well, Waymo and Cruise are finally putting their money where their mouth is. After years of planning, the autonomous rideshare companies have both applied for permits to deploy their self-driving vehicles for controlled taxi and delivery services in San Francisco, according to a report by Reuters.
Waymo and Cruise already hold DMV permits to test their driverless cars in California. The companies are simply applying for a permit to make perform delivery and taxi services with an operator behind their wheel of their car. If approved, Waymo and Cruise will join their rival Nuro, who gained the same permit in 2020. Future permits obtained through the California Autonomous Vehicle Deployment Program allow the companies to offer their services without an operator.
Driverless car companies target the Bay Area because it’s densely populated, spontaneous, and full of winding narrow roads. The city is a far cry from Phoenix, another popular testing ground for autonomous cars (especially Waymo’s vehicles). While Phoenix helps companies teach their cars to drive in sparse rural areas and suburbs, San Francisco will help self driving cars avoid pedestrians and other unpredictable factors. (Of course, San Francisco is also a popular hotspot for rich Silicon Valley-types and investors, who like to see their technology in use.)
Internally, this permit is a major step for Waymo and Cruise. But from the outside, not a lot will change. Waymo still plans to stick an operator behind the wheel of its autonomous cars in San Francisco, and the companies may restrict their vehicles to certain roads while in self-driving mode. Delivery and ridesharing services may be limited to certain areas at certain times of day, and the average person in San Francisco may not find themselves in an autonomous car until the end of the decade.
Source: Waymo, Cruise via Ars Technica