The responsible California authority has for the first time permitted the use of autonomously driving cabs. Under strict conditions, 30 of these vehicles will soon be allowed to take off in San Francisco.
Only in certain places and at certain times
Because final safety concerns could not be resolved, Cruise has only received conditional approval for autonomous cab operations. As such, the cabs are only allowed to operate in certain areas of the city and not during peak hours. Specifically, the self-driving cabs have been granted an operating permit that is limited to the period from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The cabs are also not allowed to operate during heavy rain and fog. The approval of the cab operation can thus be seen as a kind of trial, which should also be of interest to the many other Californian companies working on autonomous mobility.
The fact that the self-driving cabs cannot pick up passengers directly at the roadside attracted particular negative attention during the approval test. The autonomous cars can only stop in the road area – and thus usually in the second row. However, this could pose an enormous danger to all people involved – especially on busy roads.
Approval is likely to be received with corresponding skepticism. Ryan Russo, director of the Transportation Department in Oakland, advised the licensing commission to act prudently: Many of the claimed benefits of autonomous driving are not substantiated, he said.
Autonomous mobility is slow to take off
Overall, the conditional approval that has now been granted shows that autonomous mobility is getting off the ground much more slowly than many had assumed. In California, numerous companies are working on the implementation of self-driving cars – which is why the US state is considered a pioneer in this field. The fact that only the very first approval is now being granted, and that this is severely restricted, should make all those involved in the mobility sector aware that the concept is not yet all that mature.
In the past, Uber and Tesla in particular, but also other pioneers in this field, have assumed with enormous self-confidence that they would have fully implemented autonomous mobility by the present time. Tesla, for example, announced that it would operate a fleet of autonomous cabs by the end of 2020, while Uber even talked about having 75,000 self-driving cars on the roads by 2019.
The experiment in San Francisco is now likely to point the way for further developments in this sector: If it fails or cannot demonstrate enormous advantages, this is likely to inhibit further investment in autonomous mobility. The further development remains correspondingly exciting – especially for all people in San Francisco, who could now for the first time run into self-driving cars without personnel placed in them for emergencies.