General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle unit says it will pull the human backup drivers from its vehicles in San Francisco by the end of the year, apnews.com reported on Friday.
Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said in a statement that the company got a permit Thursday from California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to let the cars travel on their own.
The move follows last week’s announcement from Waymo that it would open its autonomous ride-hailing service to the public in the Phoenix area in vehicles without human drivers.
Waymo, a unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is hoping to eventually expand the service into California, where it already has a permit to run without human backups.
Cruise has reached the point where it is confident that it can safely operate without humans in the cars, spokesman Ray Wert said. There was no date for starting a ride service, which would require further government permission, he said.
Cruise would go neighborhood-by-neighborhood in San Francisco and launch the driverless vehicles slowly before spreading to the entire city, he said. It would hold neighborhood meetings to answer people’s questions, he said.
“We understand that this is a trust race as much as it is a technology race,” Wert said. “This is absolutely about making sure that we are doing this with San Francisco.”
The moves by Waymo and Cruise, which were considered among the leaders in autonomous vehicle technology, were important steps in the march toward proliferation of self-driving cars.
Progress toward autonomous vehicles slowed markedly after an Uber autonomous test SUV ran down a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018.