Following a vote by the California Public Utilities Commission last week allowing Cruise and Waymo to expand and charge for their autonomous car operations in San Francisco, consumer interest in the two companies’ competing robotaxi services increased.
In the five days following the August 10 vote, app intelligence provider data.ai estimated 15,400 downloads of the Waymo One app, a 67% increase from the previous week’s 9,200 downloads. In the same five-day period, the Cruise app was downloaded by first-time users 8,300 times, a 77% increase.
According to data.ai, the Cruise app has been downloaded a total of 146,000 times. Waymo One has been downloaded approximately 513 thousand times, according to data.ai. Waymo One presumably has a greater total number of downloads because the ride-hailing service has been active in the greater Phoenix area for years. Cruise has begun expanding to other cities, such as Phoenix, but its largest concentration of autonomous vehicles and its principal commercial operations are in San Francisco.
The number of app installations is one indicator of demand. It is less obvious how many active users Cruise and Waymo have, as well as the rate at which consumers are being removed from their respective waitlists and granted access to the services. Waymo recently informed TechCrunch that 100,000 app users in the San Francisco area are on the waitlist for the Waymo One service.
As Cruise and Waymo begin charging for driverless transportation in San Francisco, interest has increased. Since months, the companies have had limited paid operations in the capital. The vote by the CPUC granted both companies the final permit required to offer commercial robotaxi services throughout San Francisco 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no limit on the number of robotaxis they can deploy.
Cruise notified its users via email on August 14, just days after the referendum, that it would begin charging for all driverless rides. The company noted that the fares are disclosed to the user in advance and guaranteed there would be no surge pricing, a strategy employed by human-driven ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft.
“Paying to ride will help us grow, and expanded hours and service upgrades are coming soon,” the email stated.
Waymo issued a similar message via email and within its app, with a few minor variations. On August 21, the company plans to begin charging for Waymo One journeys in San Francisco. Like Cruise, Waymo One passengers will see their fares upfront.
Waymo explained that the fare is based on the most direct route and will remain the same even if the car takes an unanticipated detour. Waymo indicated that prices may be higher during busiest periods, such as evenings and weekends. The company added that its wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) service in the city will continue to be free for the time being.
As consumer interest in Cruise and Waymo increased, so did opposition. Prior to the CPUC vote, public opinion was divided regarding the use of robotaxis on public roadways. Several incidents involving Cruise self-driving vehicles, including one in which ten vehicles halted and blocked traffic, have infuriated city officials in the days following the vote.
City Attorney David Chiu of San Francisco filed motions with the CPUC on Wednesday to halt Cruise and Waymo’s plans to charge for robotaxi journeys in the city at all hours.