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February 1, 2022 2:36 PM, EST

GM’s Cruise Begins Offering Driverless Rides

A volunteer loads bags of food into a Cruise LLC self-driving training carA volunteer loads bags of food into a Cruise LLC self-driving training car at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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Cruise LLC, the self-driving car startup that is majority owned by General Motors Co., is offering free rides to nonemployees in San Francisco for the first time, a move that triggers another $1.35 billion from investor SoftBank Vision Fund.

Cruise started its autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco for employees more than a year ago and is waiting on regulatory approvals to charge fares. In the meantime, Cruise is offering free rides and will start a waiting list.

By opening its cars to the public, Cruise met requirements from SoftBank to bring in the second portion of its planned investment.

The Japanese fund gave Cruise $900 million in 2018 and pledged more once the company proved the cars worked and could ferry around the public at large.

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Host Seth Clevenger, fresh from CES, discusses autonomous and electric trucks with Joe Adams of Kenworth and Cheng Lu of TuSimple. Hear a snippet above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.   

“I’m still surprised I can even write those words,” Cruise interim CEO Kyle Vogt said in a blog post Feb. 1 about the launch of the ride service. “This moment really snuck up on me. We’re opening a sign-up page on our site today so you can get a driverless ride soon.”

Cruise has applied for a permit with the California Public Utilities Commission for a permit to charge for rides. It plans to start with “a small number of users” and grow as more cars become available, Vogt said.

GM gives Cruise about $1 billion in funding every year. In addition to that, Cruise has commitments from investors such as Microsoft Corp., Honda Motor Co. and investment firm T. Rowe Price and Associates for more than $6 billion.

Vogt is acting CEO while GM looks to replace Dan Ammann, who was removed from the job in December.