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Cruise, the self-driving technology company backed by General Motors and Honda, has begun testing cars in San Francisco with no human behind the wheel.

Why it matters: The driverless tests represent a small but important step toward the future deployment of autonomous vehicles, said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann.

  • "What we’re witnessing here is the move of real self-driving out of the R&D lab and on to the path to being a commercial product that everyone can use."

Reality check: The testing is still fairly modest. Cruise's newly issued driverless test permit in California limits it to just five test vehicles.

  • And while the permit applies to the entire city, Ammann said the cars will stick to just a few San Francisco neighborhoods, and then steadily expand "to new parts of the city, and different times of day...until we're operating everywhere and around the clock with a full fleet of our driverless AVs."
  • A Cruise video highlighting the first driverless trip shows it occurred at night, in a residential neighborhood, with no other cars encountered except those parked along the side of the street.
  • An operator in the passenger seat held a "kill switch" but had no access to the traditional driver controls, a Cruise spokesperson tells Axios.

What they're saying: "There are no shortcuts to achieving a moment like this – especially when the complexity of the driving environment is like 40 times more difficult than a typical suburban setting," Ammann said.

For the record: In October, Waymo opened its driverless taxi service to the public in a Phoenix suburb.

Go deeper

Sep 25, 2020 - Economy & Business

Eyeing the end of gas-powered cars

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Gasoline-powered cars may be going the way of the woolly mammoth, even if it will take decades to replace them and seems hard to fathom today.

The big picture: Internal combustion engines (ICEs) have powered automobiles for more than 100 years. But the shift to electric vehicles, slow to materialize at first, is now accelerating due to tightening government policies, falling costs and a societal reckoning about climate change.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.