The state’s public utility regulator has issued its first-ever permits allowing passenger service in autonomous vehicles in San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

The permits, which the California Public Utilities Commission granted to self-driving vehicle companies Cruise LLC and Waymo LLC, will allow both companies to collect fares from riders and offer autonomous ride-booking services as long as a driver is present to take control of the vehicle if necessary to safely continue driving.

Cruise is permitted to offer autonomous ride service on certain San Francisco public roads between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. at speeds of up to 30 mph while Waymo can operate in designated areas of both counties at speeds of up to 65 mph and at any time of day.

According to the CPUC, neither company is permitted to operate their self-driving vehicles in dense fog or heavy rain due to safety concerns.

A Cruise autonomous vehicle (AV) appears in a promotional image from the company’s website. (Image courtesy of Cruise LLC)

“Autonomous vehicles are a breakthrough technology that hold the potential to improve safety for all road users, and issuing these permits allowing for fare collection and shared rides is an important and measured step toward the commercialization and expansion of the service,” CPUC Commissioner Genevieve Shiroma said.

Cruise and Waymo were previously part of a pilot program under the CPUC allowing them to provide passenger service without collecting fares and requested to convert their pilot program permits into permits under the commission’s Drivered Deployment program for autonomous vehicles.

The CPUC ultimately determined that both companies meet the program’s requirements, which include holding a valid self-driving vehicle deployment permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Cruise is also part of the CPUC’s pilot program for self-driving vehicle service without a safety driver.

Information on the state’s regulation of autonomous vehicles can be found on the CPUC website.