Driverless taxis can now operate all day in San Francisco

11 Aug 2023

Image: © heyengel/

A California commission voted 3-1 in favour of giving Alphabet-owned Waymo and General Motors-owned Cruise permits to operate robotaxis 24/7 in San Francisco.

In what has been described as a “huge milestone” for the autonomous vehicles (AV) industry, California has given the green light to Waymo and Cruise to operate driverless taxis 24/7 across San Francisco.

After more than six hours of deliberations, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved resolutions yesterday (10 August) granting Alphabet-owned Waymo and General Motors-owned Cruise to conduct commercial driverless taxi services “at any time of day”.

The commission voted 3-1 in favour of the companies, after hearing arguments from both sides that included concerns around safety and traffic congestion as well as an enumeration of potential benefits the technology offers to people with disabilities.

“While we do not yet have the data to judge AVs against the standard human drivers are setting, I do believe in the potential of this technology to increase safety on the roadway,” said CPUC commissioner John Reynolds, a former general counsel at Cruise.

“Collaboration between key stakeholders in the industry and the first responder community will be vital in resolving issues as they arise in this innovative, emerging technology space.”

‘Progress over tragic status quo’

Until yesterday, both Waymo and Cruise had permission to offer limited services, including restrictions around time of day and location, as well as whether a safety driver is present in the car. The latest permission will allow the two to operate services just like Uber or Lyft.

“It’s a huge milestone for the AV industry, but even more importantly a signal to the country that [California] prioritises progress over our tragic status quo,” tweeted Cruise CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt.

“We share the CPUC’s commitment to delivering safer, cleaner and more accessible transportation options, and remain committed to collaborating closely with regulators to push toward this critical goal. Let’s Cruise!”

Meanwhile, Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana said in a statement that the latest permit “marks the true beginning of our commercial operations in San Francisco”.

In March last year, Waymo started offering fully driverless car rides to its employees in San Francisco, following its successful operation of a driverless service to the public in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona.

Months later, Cruise become the first AV company to secure approval to operate a commercial taxi service using driverless cars in California, starting with select streets of San Francisco between 10pm and 6am.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic