Robotaxies are planning to expand service in cities like San Francisco, as driver-less vehicles become more common.
Cruise has already been running driver-less taxi services in San Francisco for most of a year, confining their services to uncrowded parts of the city during the least congested overnight hours. Cruise was founded in 2013 by Kyle Vogt to focus on all kinds of self-driving vehicles, and is currently owned by General Motors.
Waymo, which operates under Google, also operates in various corners of San Francisco. They’ve been giving riders free driver-less rides while they wait for clearance to charge fares.
Both companies have been dealing with complaints from the public about their services. According to complaints, the robotaxies are prone to making sudden, unexpected stops in traffic, causing congestion and endangering passengers. There have been a few instances the vehicles stopping in the path of emergency vehicles, getting in their way. And they both operate under limitations, including where they’re allowed to be and how fast they’re allowed to go.
Cruise recently applied for permission from the California DMV to begin testing their robotaxies all across California, at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour. That would keep them off of the freeways, but allow them on any other road or artery in the state.
″We still have work to do, but it’s improving at a pretty rapid rate,” Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt told The Associated Press. “As it gets fine-tuned, it will get really elegant over time, but also the safety continues to improve.”
Ultimately, the hope of companies like Cruise and Waymo is that robotaxies will be safer and cheaper than human drivers, lowering prices for passengers to compete with Uber and Lyft while increasing profits. But there are a number of legal and public hurdles still to cross.
“We are just very wary,” said Tilly Chang, the executive director for the San Francisco transportation authority. “We want to be supporters and help facilitate (driverless rides), but we have to make sure it’s safe.”