GM's Cruise brings self-driving car rides to the public in San Francisco

Cruise, the autonomous car company acquired by General Motors in 2016, has announced the launch of driverless car rides in San Francisco. The rides are offered to the public for free at this time, giving more people the opportunity to experience self-driving car technology — though, the company notes, only a small number of users will get access initially.

Cruise was founded in 2013, scoring its first big development in 2016 with GM's acquisition followed by a $3.35 billion investment from Softbank and GM in 2018. As of 2021, Cruise has boasted a valuation of more than $30 billion dollars with self-driving car technology at its core.

In an announcement on February 1, 2022, Cruise revealed it is now accepting sign-ups from interested riders who'd like to take one of the company's self-driving cars for a spin. Lucky participants will be given rides in driverless cars, which are equipped with technology that enables them to drive on city streets on their own.

According to Cruise, some of its team members have already been hitching rides in the company's autonomous cars, as have some members of the public. The company shared a video of its cars driving themselves with passengers in the backseat, as well, perhaps helping put potential future riders at ease.

Getting a ride in a Cruise self-driving car

If you're in San Francisco and want to experience a Cruise trip, you can head over to the company's sign-up page to express your interest. Cruise notes that initial ride capacity will be limited, but that it'll increase the number of rides it offers to the public once more autonomous cars become available.

Cruise named each of its cars and says that "Poppy" has been tapped to give the public rides in San Francisco. Riders must be at least 18 years old, according to the sign-up page, which also requires the interested party's name, email, phone OS, details about whether the ride will be for leisure, and more.

It'll still be a while before autonomous vehicles are a common way to get around. The technology has been in development and testing for years, and opportunities for the public to take rides in these vehicles have increased. Partial driving automation has become more common in the cars consumers drive daily, as well, including features like automatic braking and lane assist.

The early days in this industry were marked by largely skeptical and hostile public perceptions — many expressed doubts over whether self-driving vehicles can safely navigate often unpredictable public roads. Those opinions may be changing, however, as the concept of autonomous transportation grows familiar and public demonstrations of the technology more common.

In February 2021, AAA published the results of a survey that found while most drivers in the US are eager to adopt partially automated vehicle technologies, only 22-percent of respondents thought companies should set their focus on creating fully autonomous cars. There's a big difference between partially and fully autonomous vehicles, but as AAA pointed out, the growing availability of automated safety features may pave the way for greater overall public acceptance in the future.