LOS ANGELES: Cruise, a General Motors (GM) majority-owned company along with investors Honda and Softbank, became the first company to receive a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test cars without any occupants in them.
Cruise has been testing 180 of its Chevrolet Cruise self-driving vehicles with a safety driver behind the wheel on the busy streets of San Francisco.
The permit now allows five of those vehicles to roam the streets without anyone in them.
Although the company isn't the first to receive such a permit in the US, they will be the first to deploy their vehicles on the streets of a major US city.
Cruise is the fifth company to receive the driverless permit in the state of California with Alphabet’s Waymo being the first in late 2018 for about 36 test vehicles that can travel up to more than 100kph.
This year, SoftBank-backed Nuro, whose vehicle has no steering wheel or pedals, was also approved and has delivered medical supplies for temporary Covid-19 hospitals.
Chinese startup AutoX and Amazon.com Inc's Zoox also received their permits in recent months.
The four previous permits are for cities in Silicon Valley that are easier to navigate.
Under its permit, Cruise vehicles can go anywhere on San Francisco streets at a maximum speed of up to 50kph and can drive both day and night.
In the state of Arizona, which has been more open to the testing of autonomous vehicles, Waymo has already begun charging a select group of customers since mid-2019.
The programme was temporarily paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic but was recently restarted in October.
Currently, Cruise is working on improving its ride-hailing app that employees can use for free to get around the city.