Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company backed by General Motors, is now officially a commercial service. The company this week started charging for rides in its self-driving taxis in San Francisco, a major milestone in the company’s plans to expand its service.
The company said there are currently driverless rides with “most riders” in northwestern San Francisco. Cruise will continue to “expand our paid service in line with the smoothest customer experience possible,” a spokesperson said.
Cruise currently offers a range of services from day trips in its autonomous vehicles with safety drivers behind the wheel to nighttime trips in its fully self-driving cars. (The company is currently banned from offering daytime rides in its driverless vehicles.) Since February, Cruise has been testing free driverless rides to the public in San Francisco.
The cost of driving one of Cruise’s self-driving vehicles depends on the length of the trip and the time of day. According to a company example, a customer traveling 1.3 miles would pay $0.90 per mile and $0.40 per minute, in addition to a $5 base rate and 1.5 percent city tax, for a total of $8.72. (By comparison, an Uber ride for the same trip costs at least $10.41.)
Cruise now also allows riders to bring a guest on their trip (previously, rides were limited to the account holder only). And the company’s “Cruise — Driverless Rides” iOS app is now available on the Apple App Store via an invite code for riders who have previously signed up for the public waitlist.
Self-driving cars are still a long way from the ubiquity and convenience of most taxi services. But the progress in offering preferred rides is still remarkable. Cruise isn’t the first to charge for rides; Waymo, a spin-off of Google, has charged for rides in its driverless vehicles in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as for rides in its driverless vehicles (autonomous vehicles with safety drivers) in San Francisco. The company has not yet received final approval to charge riders for rides in its self-driving vehicles in the city.