You won’t necessarily have to hail one of Cruise’s robotaxis at night in San Francisco. Company chief Kyle Vogt has revealed that Cruise now has permission to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week across all of San Francisco. Only employees will have access to the whole region for those hours. However, Cruise is also opening daytime rides to public “power users” for the first time. While you’ll only have access to a limited portion of the city at first (mainly Pacific Heights, Richmond and Sunset), it’s now just a question of where you are, not when you’re going.
Staff have already been riding during the daytime for months. San Francisco officials have resisted expanding access to robotaxis from Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo over concerns the companies are moving too quickly. There have been incidents where the driverless cars blocked traffic, including emergency vehicles. The city’s Transportation Authority has instead pushed for limited rollouts with gradual expansions.
Well folks, we did it. I have been waiting for this day for almost 10 years.
I am proud to announce @Cruise is now running 24/7 across all of San Francisco!
This is a pivotal moment for our business.
Let me tell you why 👇(1/6) pic.twitter.com/UqCMgozrWX
— Kyle Vogt (@kvogt) April 25, 2023
There’s no timeline for wider deployments elsewhere, but Vogt promises that operations will “soon” grow in other cities. Successful use in San Francisco is a “litmus test” for robotaxis in other cities, the executive claims. The city’s challenging terrain, unusual roads and wet weather are daunting for self-driving car sensors.
The wider access could help the GM-owned brand claim an edge over Waymo. Cruise was the first to start charging for self-driving rides in San Francisco. Now, it can tout non-stop service for some passengers. Waymo still has an advantage in areas like Phoenix, where it has charged for public rides for a while, but it clearly has a more difficult fight ahead.