In addition to hoverboards, unicycles, mopeds, and dog-pulled skateboards – as well as an occasional car or bike – San Franciscans will soon be sharing the roads with driverless robocars, zipping through traffic without the added weight of human passengers. Last October Cruise LLC received a permit to test up to five vehicles at a time within City limits without a human in the driver’s seat. Cruise is the fifth company allowed to conduct such field work in California. So far, it’s the only business pitting driverless technology against San Francisco’s notoriously challenging driving conditions.
San Franciscans have seen plenty of self-driving cars, but always with human passengers. Usually identifiable by prominent logos and strangely protruding sensors, autonomous vehicles (AV) have been approved for testing on California’s roadways since 2014. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has issued AV permits to 59 companies, many of which operate in the Bay Area. Previously, however, trail vehicles were required to carry a human backup “safety driver”.