GM's self-driving Cruise division has launched its fully driverless robo-taxi service in San Francisco, with co-founder and President Kyle Vogt getting the first ride, TechCrunch reported. To start with, the service will be offered only to GM employees, as it's still only licensed for testing.
"Earlier this week, I requested a ride through our Cruise app and took several back-to-back rides in San Francisco — with no one else in the vehicle," Vogt wrote in a YouTube video description. "There are lots of other Cruise employees (not just me) who are testing and refining the full customer experience as we take another major step toward the first commercial AV [ride hailing] product in a dense urban environment."
Vogt said the Cruise launched the Bolt vehicles on Monday at 11PM, and it "began to roam around the city, waiting for a ride request." He got his first ride from a Cruise Bolt EV called "Sourdough," saying the experience was "smooth." A separate video showed sections before and after the vehicle picked up passengers while it was in "ghost mode" with no one in it.
Early last month, Cruise received a California DMV permit to operate the service between the hours of 10PM and 6AM at a maximum speed of 30 MPH in mild weather conditions (no worse than light rain and fog). It's allowed to run them without drivers and charge for delivery services, but not ride-hailing. For paid robo-taxi rides, it must apply for a final permit with the California Public Utilities Commission.
GM recently launched its "Ultra Cruise" system for passenger vehicles, promising that it will "ultimately enable hands-free driving in 95 percent of all driving scenarios." The company has spent 10 million miles testing the system, and its previous Super Cruise has generally garnered positive reviews compared to rival systems like Tesla's Autopilot.
Update 11/4/2021 1:19 PM ET: Cruise told Engadget that it is currently only offering fully driverless rides to employees right now. While it is allowed under its testing permit to offer free rides to the public as well, it's not doing so yet. The headline has been changed to emphasize that the program is still in the testing phase, and a reference to rides being available to certain members of the public has been removed.