Tuesday night, Cruise expanded its robotaxi services to nearly 70% of San Francisco. The company’s service area now includes the Bernal Heights, Bayview, Dogpatch, Excelsior, Haight, Nob Hill, Noe Valley, Japantown, Outer Mission, Potrero Hill, Portola, West Portal, Richmond, Sunset, Pac Heights and Presidio Heights neighborhoods, among others.
“We will continue to steadily increase service area, hours of operation, and number of concurrent AVs to reach more users,” said Kyle Vogt, co-founder and CEO of Cruise. “It’s going to be an exciting year!”
Cruise first began offering public robotaxi rides in San Francisco in October 2021, when the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved the company for fully autonomous rides in California. More recently, in March 2022, Cruise received a Drivered Deployment permit from the California Public Utilities Commission.
The Drivered Deployment permit allows Cruise to charge for services as long as there is a human safety driver present in the car. Cruise’s permit allows its robotaxis to operate on select public roads in San Francisco from 10 PM to 6 AM at speeds of up to 30 mph.
Cruise has applied for a driverless deployment permit, which would allow it to charge a fare to passengers using its fully driverless robotaxi service. However, Cruise has not made any public statements about its request for a driverless deployment permit.
Just opened up our service map to now include nearly 70% of San Francisco. Team internally calls it the claw. More to do, but a huge milestone for the team and our overall service quality. pic.twitter.com/sZ5LEOE3ud
— Daniel Kan (@danielkan) May 4, 2022
Cruise’s has taken an incremental approach to rolling out its robotaxi service. The company had its eyes set on giving its in San Francisco for years before it was able to put its cars on the road. According to Vogt in a 2017 article on Medium, the company sought to tackle one of the hardest cities to drive in first so that it would be able to scale more quickly over time.
“Our path to scale starts with fleet deployments in the most dense urban environments, where high utilization rates generate sustainable unit economics even at low initial vehicle volumes,” Vogt wrote. “As we ramp up volume, we’ll drive down costs and gradually roll out our technology to suburban and rural areas where ride-sharing is less common today.”
Cruise is taking huge steps to rolling out across all of San Francisco. And, if Vogt’s prediction proves to be true, the company’s vehicles could be ready to handle almost any other city in the country soon.
Rashed Haq, VP of robotics for Cruise, was recently a guest on The Robot Report Podcast. Rashed discussed the current deployment of Cruise’s robotaxis in San Francisco and what the company expects to learn from the experience as it gradually expands its operating scope. He also discussed the various challenges of creating and optimizing viable machine learning models that make decisions in the safe operation of autonomous vehicles.
As an AI expert and author, we also talk to Rashed about the unique nature of gathering training data and training new models to use in machine learning and AI-based algorithms. Rashed shares some valuable insight into the best practices outlined in his book and put into practice at Cruise. You can listen to the podcast below.