Waymo, the autonomous division of Alphabet, and Cruise Automation, the autonomous wing of General Motors, have been given approval to collect fares from passengers in its robotaxis.
The approval was given by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which allowed the permits for charging for robotaxi service with a safety driver present in the vehicle.
The permits issued by the CPUC allow Cruise to charge for service on select 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. Waymo can provide robotaxi services in designated parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties at any time of day or night at speeds of up to 65 mph. Neither company is allowed to operate during heavy fog or heavy rain.
“Autonomous vehicles are a breakthrough technology that hold the potential to improve safety for all road users and issuing these permits allowing for fare collection and shared rides is an important and measured step toward the commercialization and expansion of the service,” said Genevieve Shiroma, commissioner of the CPUC, in a statement. “As the technology is deployed, we will keep a close eye on the impacts of autonomous vehicles on safety, the environment, and on disadvantaged communities.”
In May of 2021, Cruise and Waymo applied for the permits to charge for the rides in California with a trained driver. The companies would eventually offer passenger service without a safety driver.
According to Forbes, Waymo and Cruise will be able to pursue a number of business models to charge for services.
Similar to Uber, they could charge a certain price per mile or they could try a subscription method that would include a flat monthly fee plus a much lower per ride or per mile fee. Another possibility is charging a flat fee.
Right now, pricing and business models have not been announced by either Cruise or Waymo.
Not the first
Three years ago, Waymo began charging for robotaxi rides in Chandler, Arizona, where the company first began its autonomous ride-hailing service as part of the Early Rider program. This would be the first expanded operations of the program since the initial pilot.
Cruise and Waymo would not be the first companies to receive a permit to operate robotaxis for hire in the state. In April, Nuro was the first company to be permitted a license to test its self-driving shuttles on public roads. The main difference is that Nuro is designed for the delivery of goods and cargo, not passengers. Nuro has been extremely active in the development of its autonomous shuttles, forming an agreement with Mexican chain restaurant Chipotle in March and raising $500 million in funding last year.
However, Pony.ai become one of the few autonomous vehicle companies to begin charging for robotaxi services in Beijing, China, after receiving approval from the city late last year. Baidu also began charging for autonomous vehicle ride-hailing services in Beijing in May of 2021 after receiving approval from the Chinese government.