The Cruise service is open to paying members of the public from 10 p.m. to 5:30am in the Northwest part of San Francisco, Cruise confirmed.
People who are eligible to ride in the Cruise robotaxis during the day, and in other parts of the city, are not charged a fee. They include what Cruise calls a “power user” cohort of riders, and “Cruisers” who are employees of the company.
Across San Francisco, Phoenix and Austin, where Cruise is currently operating or testing its vehicles, there are around 240 driverless cars that run concurrently at night, with a majority in San Francisco.
The company did not disclose how many robotaxis are in use in a typical day or night in San Francisco.
Vogt said, in his announcement, “Operating robotaxis in SF has become a litmus test for business viability. If it can work here, there’s little doubt it can work just about everywhere.” He also teased Cruise robotaxi service poised to open up in other cities, and noted that the technology in the existing Cruise electric, driverless vehicles will also be used in the company’s larger shuttle, the Cruise Origin.
“There are still many challenges ahead for Cruise but this is a milestone worth celebrating,” Vogt wrote in an announcement posted to LinkedIn and Twitter.
Cruise is one of a handful of companies authorized to commercially operate their autonomous vehicles on San Francisco city streets without a human safety driver on board who can take over the driving task if there is a technical glitch or other need. Alphabet-owned Waymo and startup Nuro are also part of that cohort.
Other companies are authorized to conduct autonomous vehicle testing in California with no human driver in the car, including Amazon-owned Zoox and Chinese startup WeRide, according to the DMV website.
Like other robotaxi developers, Cruise’s autonomous vehicles have occasionally distressed San Francisco safety advocates, drivers and pedestrians after they have stalled in traffic or blocked streets. In one incident this spring, Cruise vehicles blocked a street with fallen trees and became tangled in power lines connected to the city’s MUNI transportation. No injuries or property damage occurred as a result, and Cruise sent teams to remove the vehicles.