You no longer need to be a GM employee to experience Cruise’s self-driving taxi service. TechCrunch grades cruise has open driverless for the public in San Francisco. The company is initially only accepting applications for a “small number” of passengers, but these initial trips will be free. More spaces will open as more cars become available, Cruise said.
Be prepared for an unusual collection. A spokesperson told TechCrunch that this first service operates between 11pm and 5am, and you’ll have to make do with tours in certain parts of the Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, Pacific Heights and Richmond District neighborhoods. The night runs will help Cruise make the biggest impact, the spokesperson said, and are expected to expand over time.
Free tours are not entirely voluntary. While Cruise has most of the licenses required to offer driverless service, it does not yet have the California Public Utilities Commission permission required to charge for these tours.
The release comes at just the right time for Cruise. Although it abruptly lost CEO Dan Ammann in December, the SoftBank Vision Fund is investing another $1.35 billion in the company now that it is operating truly self-driving cars. Cruise can better afford these free trips and otherwise take the time to develop self-driving technology that includes the Origin transport van. The company wasn’t necessarily facing a crisis due to GM’s healthy finances, but that clearly reduces some of the pressure to make money.
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