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Two trailblazing ride-hailing services are heading toward uncharted territory as they seek regulatory approval to transport passengers around the clock throughout one of the most densely populated U.S. cities in vehicles that will have no one sitting in the driver’s seat.
If Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, and Waymo, a spinoff from Google, reach their goal before year’s end, San Francisco would become the first U.S. city with two totally driverless services competing against Uber, Lyft and traditional taxis — all of which depend on people to control the automobiles.
But Cruise and Waymo still must navigate around potential roadblocks, including complaints about their vehicles making unexpected, traffic-clogging stops that threaten to inconvenience other travelers and imperil public safety.
Cruise already has been charging people for driverless rides in less congested parts of San Francisco during night-time hours since last June. Waymo has been giving free driverless rides in a broader swath of the city while awaiting clearance to begin charging passengers in robotic vehicles that Google secretly began working on 14 years ago.
The effort to unleash dueling driverless services throughout San Francisco is shaping up to be just the first step in a far more ambitious expansion centered in California — a state where more than 35 million vehicles driven by humans are currently registered.
Both Cruise and Waymo recently announced their driverless fleets each have covered more than 1 million miles without a major accident. But their robotaxis also have experienced nagging problems in San Francisco that have caused traffic headaches and other nuisances that threaten to inconvenience people or, worse, block emergency vehicles rushing to a fire or other urgent calls for help.
Meanwhile, dozens of other technology companies and automakers have joined in a race to develop self-driving car technology at a collective cost of more than $100 billion. Their ultimate goal is to make money off robotic drivers that are safer and less expensive than human drivers. Robotaxis could also lower prices for passengers, although Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt believes consumers may be willing to pay more for rides without a stranger behind the wheel.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.