One year after rolling out its self-driving taxi service in the city, General Motors-owned Cruise is expanding its service area to include the vast majority of San Francisco's geographic footprint.
In a tweet thread, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said the company was expanding its operational area past its previous boundaries, which already included Golden Gate Park, the Richmond, the Sunset and Cole Valley.
The service area now also includes the Mission, the Presidio and much of the western and southern portions of the city. Two significant neighborhoods remained blacked out: Twin Peaks, which Vogt attributed to issues around closed roads, and the Financial District, which Vogt characterized as “SF’s busiest neighborhood.”
The expanded service area will be available to Cruise employees first before being offered to the general public in “a few weeks,” according to Vogt.
Residents looking to hitch a driverless ride will still need to sign up on a public wait list, and the vehicles still only operate for limited hours.
Cruise’s expansion comes as San Francisco transit officials have criticized the company’s existing activities, highlighting a litany of issues including safety hazards and traffic problems caused by the autonomous vehicles, including a June 3 crash that led to a recall of software in 80 of its cars.
In a letter sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Jeffrey Tumlin and Tilly Chang, the directors of the city and county’s transportation agencies wrote that without improvements the vehicles “could quickly exhaust emergency response resources and could undermine public confidence in all automated driving technology.”
Most of the reported incidents cited by transit officials were about Cruise cars blocking lanes and causing traffic jams on some of the city’s most dangerous roads—known as the "High Injury Network." The network accounts for 13% of San Francisco streets where 75% of traffic injuries happen.
Some of the scenes have gone viral on social media, such as a 13-car stoppage on Gough Street in June and an April incident in the Richmond where a Cruise self-driving car appeared to briefly run away from a police officer.
The geographic expansion also comes as Cruise parent company General Motors pushes forward with the launch of its Cruise Origin vehicle, a self-driving, fully electric shuttle. GM CEO Mary Barra has said the Origin is slated to be ready for deployment in 2023.
Kevin Truong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org