San Francisco approves driverless taxis: Cruise and Waymo lead the way......by Rachhpal Sahota
Cincinnati, USA,: Get ready for a big change in the world of self-driving taxis! It's like when Uber and Lyft first came to town, but even more exciting.Here's the big news: Cruise, a self-driving car company owned by General Motors, and Waymo, a self-driving project by Alphabet (Google's parent company), have been given the green light to offer driverless taxi rides in San Francisco all day and night.
This is a major step for robot taxis. It could transform not only San Francisco but also impact self-driving cars across the country. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has given the thumbs-up for Cruise and Waymo to fully commercialize their services. But there's still some mystery about how they'll operate and what it all means for self-driving cars.
Here's what's happening with Cruise and Waymo's self-driving taxi services in San Francisco:
Getting the Go-Ahead from Regulators:
The CPUC and the Department of Motor Vehicles have allowed Cruise and Waymo to offer their self-driving taxi services in San Francisco without any restrictions. This means they can give people rides without a human driver, anytime they want.
There are no limits on how many miles they can drive or how many cars they can use. This gives Cruise and Waymo the freedom to grow their services.
Before this decision, Cruise had already been testing around 300 self-driving taxis at night and 100 during the day. Waymo had about 250 self-driving taxis, with around 100 of them on the road during the day.
Both Cruise and Waymo have plans to expand, but they're keeping their strategies secret, which is allowed by the state's rules. However, they've hinted that they want to gradually offer more rides.
Waymo's plan covers San Francisco and part of San Mateo County. They're even thinking about the airport. Cruise hasn't used its self-driving cars on highways yet, and their cars will stick to speeds of up to 65 mph. Unlike Uber and Lyft, they won't be offering shared rides.
Using the Self-Driving Taxis:
Just because they got the approval doesn't mean you can jump into a self-driving Cruise or Waymo taxi right away. People who want to use their services will have to sign up on their apps and wait.
Cruise and Waymo have a lot of people waiting already. They'll slowly start letting people use their self-driving taxis. Waymo has more than 100,000 people on their waiting list and plans to start their service in a few weeks.
Changing the City Scene:
Don't expect to see a flood of robot taxis taking over San Francisco's streets immediately. Instead, you might notice more self-driving taxis during the day. Now that they can charge people for rides in the daytime, there will likely be more of them on the road.
Although Cruise and Waymo's plans for expansion aren't clear, it's likely they'll keep growing like they have been this year. Cruise, for example, claims to have driven 4 million miles autonomously, with 1 million of those miles driven just in February.
But not everything has been smooth. Emergency responders have noticed that as Cruise and Waymo's cars get busier, there have been more disruptions.
These include sudden stops by self-driving cars that can block traffic, or unusual moves that affect buses and pedestrians. Sometimes, the self-driving taxis even get in the way of fire trucks or emergency situations.
Cruise and Waymo say they're getting better at avoiding these issues, and they've had fewer problems in June.
How it Affects Traffic and Safety:
People have seen self-driving taxis like Cruise and Waymo cause traffic jams, but overall, their impact is still small compared to regular cars and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. These companies have a lot more vehicles on the road.
The main goal of self-driving technology is to make roads safer by reducing human errors like speeding and distracted driving. But, interestingly, fire officials have warned that the current self-driving cars can sometimes create unexpected road problems that regular human drivers don't.
The City's Response to the Decision:
Some city leaders aren't completely happy with the CPUC's decision. Aaron Peskin, who leads the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, wants to challenge the ruling.
He doesn't want to stop self-driving cars, but he wants Cruise and Waymo to work more closely with the city to fix any issues. The city had suggested putting limits on the number of cars and certain conditions for expansion, but those ideas weren't included in the final decision.
Peskin is determined to keep pushing for what the city wants.
What This Means for the Future:
The decision made on Thursday is a big deal for Cruise, Waymo, and the whole world of self-driving cars. These companies are leaders in the field, and they've spent a lot of money developing their technology. Now they need to show that self-driving taxis can make money.
The CPUC's decision puts Cruise and Waymo on the same level as Uber and Lyft in San Francisco. While they're still testing in other cities, San Francisco is where they're focusing their self-driving taxi efforts for now.
San Francisco is a tricky place for self-driving cars because of its steep hills and busy streets. If Cruise and Waymo can make their self-driving cars work here, it could set an example for other cities. Success in San Francisco could mean self-driving taxis everywhere.
August 13, 2023
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