Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors, plans to begin testing unmanned autonomous vehicles by the end of this year in San Francisco.
The company said Thursday it has received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to remove the human backup drivers from its self-driving cars. The state also confirmed the permit on its website.
"Before the end of the year, we'll be sending cars out onto the streets of SF — without gasoline and without anyone at the wheel," Cruise CEO Dan Ammann wrote in a Medium post. "Because safely removing the driver is the true benchmark of a self-driving car, and because burning fossil fuels is no way to build the future of transportation."
Cruise is not the first company to receive such approval but it's a milestone in taking Cruise's privately operated fleet to a public level without having drivers — a goal of the company.
Ammann, who previously served as president of GM, said Cruise expects to be the first to test unmanned autonomous vehicles "on the streets of a major U.S. city."
Ammann did not say when the company plans to launch a commercial autonomous vehicle business for passengers or cargo. Cruise last year delayed the launch of a commercial, self-driving vehicle service in San Francisco, which it had expected to deploy in 2019. The company said its vehicles required further testing. Cruise has consistently said the launch timing would be guided by safety.