In a major regulatory win, California has given the green light for Waymo and GM’s Cruise to operate their autonomous vehicles for fared rides 24/7 across San Francisco. This approval represents a significant milestone for the commercialization of self-driving cars.
As Kyle Vogt, CEO and co-founder of Cruise, tweeted, this signals that California “prioritizes progress over our tragic status quo.” The “status quo” refers to the tens of thousands of lives lost on US roads each year, which autonomous vehicles promise to drastically reduce through increased safety.
The regulatory approval clears the way for Waymo and Cruise to expand their self-driving taxi fleets in San Francisco and offer more Californians access to autonomous rides. This increased adoption and real-world validation will likely pave the way for other companies like Tesla to grow their own autonomous driving technology.
Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk has been promising Full Self Driving capabilities for years now. And while Tesla’s FSD software still faces scrutiny, the California approval lays important regulatory groundwork to make autonomous driving a reality sooner than later.
As investor Gene Munster noted, the momentum towards fully self-driving cars seems inevitable at this point. “In the end, autonomous driving is gonna be here, and I think we’re all going to be very happy for that 5-10 years down the road,” he stated. “If you think about the companies that are going to benefit from it the two are Tesla and Waymo.”
The societal benefits also loom large, from increased accessibility for the elderly and disabled to considerable reductions in accidents, congestion and emissions. By accelerating the adoption of AV technology, this week’s regulatory win puts us one step closer to that autonomous future.