The California Public Utilities Commission has authorized Cruise to participate in California’s first pilot program to provide driverless autonomous vehicle (AV) passenger service to the public. Cruise is the first entrant into the CPUC’s Driverless Pilot program, in which passengers can ride in a test vehicle that operates without a driver in the vehicle. Cruise may not charge passengers for any rides in test AVs.
The development of autonomous driving for private and fleet vehicles is expected to grow in the coming years as AV companies strive to provide safe, efficient transportation. The CPUC’s pilot programs are intended to allow AV companies to develop their technologies on a test basis, while providing for the safety and consumer protection of passengers of commercial operators within the CPUC’s jurisdiction.
“Issuance of this first driverless permit for the CPUC’s Autonomous Vehicle Passenger Service Pilot Programs is a significant milestone. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to transform our transportation system and communities by solving individual mobility needs, improving roadway safety, and moving goods throughout the state sustainably and efficiently,” said Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma. “The effective deployment of autonomous vehicles can also transform vehicle manufacturing, maintenance, and service business models to create new jobs and industries for the California workforce.”
Cruise has already obtained an Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program Manufacturer’s Testing Permit – Driverless Vehicles from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV’s permit, which is a necessary prerequisite for all AV testing, is separate and distinct from the CPUC’s permit, which is an additional requirement only for carriers wishing to transport members of the public in AVs.
Companies participating in the pilot must submit quarterly reports to the CPUC about the operation of their vehicles providing driverless AV passenger service. Companies must also submit a Passenger Safety Plan that outlines their plans for protecting passenger safety for driverless operations.
Earlier Cruise and General Motors announced they have entered a long-term strategic relationship with Microsoft to accelerate the commercialization of self-driving vehicles. The companies will bring together their software and hardware engineering, cloud computing capabilities, manufacturing know-how and partner ecosystem.
Cruise will use Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize its autonomous vehicle solutions at scale. Microsoft, as Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, will also tap into Cruise’s deep industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.
Microsoft will join General Motors, Honda and institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation of Cruise to $30 billion.