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Autonomous rideshare rivals Waymo and Cruise have both reportedly applied for permits to charge passengers for self-driving rides in the San Francisco Bay area. Some of the applications are still under review, but it could be a major step toward autonomous rideshare vehicles operating as commonplace soon.

June 7 update: As of June 4, Cruise has been authorized by the CPUC to provide driverless autonomous vehicle passenger service in test vehicles. According to the CPUC press release:

Cruise is the first entrant into the CPUC’s Driverless Pilot program, in which passengers can ride in a test vehicle that operates without a driver in the vehicle. Cruise may not charge passengers for any rides in test AVs.

It now appears Cruise has a jump on Waymo, at least in cutting through the red tape with permits, but it’s still waiting for its driverless deployment permit from the DMV. Waymo has received a permit from the CPUC, but is currently authorized for driving permits only, not driverless like Cruise.

Waymo was launched in 2009 by Google’s parent company Alphabet, Inc., as a self-driving car project. In 2016, the Google project was officially renamed Waymo, derived from “a new way forward in mobility.” Since then, Waymo has tested its various self-driving vehicles in several states. Furthermore, it has been charging driverless rides for people in Chandler, Arizona, since 2019, apart from a slight halt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cruise is a younger company founded in 2013 in San Francisco. In 2016, General Motors (GM) purchased Cruise, focusing on making the automaker’s Bolt EV fully autonomous, backed by $14 million in funding. While both Waymo and Cruise have operated their respective autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, these rides have remained on a testing basis only up to this point.

Waymo and Cruise apply for DMV permits in CA

According to a report from Reuters, state documents in California reveal that both Waymo and Cruise have applied for permits to begin charging for autonomous rideshare services in San Francisco. Waymo applied for said permits on January 19 of this year, while Cruise followed suit on March 29. According to the report, the California DMV is still reviewing these applications and has not offered a timeline of when they will offer a decision.

In its application, Waymo stated it has logged over 83,000 autonomous miles in the San Francisco area, although its total autonomous miles are much higher. Since Cruise is headquartered in SF and has stayed focused on that geographical area since its inception, its permit application claims 2 million logged autonomous miles in San Fran alone.

Waymo Cruise
Waymo’s two current autonomous offerings – the Chrysler Pacifica minivan and the Jaguar I-Pace SUV

Waymo told Reuters that approval of the permit in California would allow the company to begin operating paid rides in autonomous vehicles, although there will be a driver behind the wheel, at least to begin. Waymo also said it might even switch off autonomous mode within its Chrysler Pacifica or Jaguar I-Pace models driving in especially tricky areas, such as freeway ramps and construction zones. This could also apply to less than ideal driving conditions, such as heavy rain and wet roads.

Cruise also stated it could possibly limit its self-driving deployment to more specific routes focused on operating in “non-inclement weather conditions.” The documents also show that Cruise initially plans to operate during the late evening to early morning hours, at speeds up to 30 mph. Waymo, on the other hand, stated plans to operate around the clock with speeds up to 65 mph.

Voyager Cruise self-driving
Cruise’s upcoming Origin vehicle

DMV approval is just the start

While permit approval from the California DMV will be crucial to both Waymo and Cruise in deploying paid autonomous rides, there’s another step after that. Both companies will then be required to apply for a permit from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) before either can begin charging passengers.

At this point, neither tech company has revealed when they intend to launch these rideshare services. A lot will depend on if and when they are approved by the DMV and how quickly they can get that additional permit from the CPUC.

While both Waymo and Cruise offer the same service using similar technology, both have shared very different deployment plans. Contrary to the previous statement of Waymo beginning with drivers behind the wheel, Cruise has stated it is expecting to deploy its vehicles sans humans driver. That could be a big reason behind its decision to operate at non-peak hours at a much slower pace than Waymo.

Check back with our autonomous driving guide for the latest news surrounding these permit applications, as well as self-driving updates from all the automakers.

Electrek’s Take

Regardless of when it actually happens, the reality is that autonomous rideshare implementation is inevitable. We’re also likely to see this tech roll out from companies like Waymo and Cruise before consumer EVs, too. This is based on the strategy of shorter rides at lower speeds that can even be controlled through geofencing. Having major backing from companies like Google, GM, and Honda certainly helps the cause.

The decision to begin with drivers behind the wheel as a safety net feels like a smart move for Waymo, especially as it has much more ambitious plans for an initial rollout than Cruise, pending permits, of course. At the same time, Cruise is taking its own unique approach by skipping the driver altogether and operating at times and in areas with less risk — perhaps a smaller sample size of data but potentially more explicit without driver interference.

Both strategies could prove effective if approved, but they are not alone. Startup Nuro already has the DMV permit from California and is working on autonomous food delivery. So there’s certainly optimism that these companies could see DMV approval, helping the technology lay another paver closer toward cities flush with robotaxis. Driverless burrito delivery sounds pretty cool.

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Taylor Swift crowned Time magazine’s Person of the Year




Taylor Swift crowned Time magazine's Person of the Year

Taylor Swift has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2023.

The music star, 33, told the publication: “This is the proudest and happiest I’ve ever felt, and the most creatively fulfilled and free I’ve ever been.

“Ultimately, we can convolute it all we want, or try to overcomplicate it, but there’s only one question: Are you not entertained?”

The Shake It Off singer beat a range of finalists to take the title, including Barbie, former US president Donald Trump’s prosecutors and the King.

It tops off a record-breaking year for Swift, and she has collected several other end-of-year awards.

People Magazine named her 2023’s most intriguing person of the year while Forbes awarded her the title of the world’s most powerful woman in media and entertainment.

The 12-time Grammy winner also became Spotify’s most-streamed artist globally, with her songs being streamed more than 26 billion times.

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She recently scored her seventh Grammy nomination for song of the year – overtaking Sir Paul McCartney and Lionel Richie.

Her Eras Tour is set to gross more than $1bn while the film version was the highest grossing concert film ever.

She also re-released new versions of her third and fifth albums Speak Now and 1989, which was sparked by a feud with music executive Scooter Braun over ownership of Swift’s masters.

Former Time Person of the Year winners in recent years include Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Elon Musk and Greta Thunberg.

Time’s editor-in-chief Sam Jacobs said on NBC’s Today programme: “Picking one person who represents the eight billion people on the planet is no easy task.

“We picked a choice that represents joy. Someone who’s bringing light to the world,” he said.

“She was like weather, she was everywhere.”

Time awards the title to “the individual, group, or concept that has had the most influence on the world throughout the previous 12 months.”

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US actors’ union SAG-AFTRA hails ‘enormous victory’ as it ratifies deal that ended strike




US actors' union SAG-AFTRA hails 'enormous victory' as it ratifies deal that ended strike

The US actors’ union has said the deal that ended its months-long strike was an “enormous victory” after it was ratified last night.

About 78% of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) members voted in favour of the contract, with a turnout of around 38%.

The walkout lasted 118 days and brought Hollywood to a standstill, halting productions on film and television shows.

FILE PHOTO: SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers walk the picket line during their ongoing strike outside Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, U.S., August 22, 2023. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
SAG-AFTRA members on strike in August – the walkout lasted 118 days

The strike ended on 9 November when a tentative agreement was reached between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers (AMPTP). It began on 14 July, with pay disputes and the threat of artificial intelligence being the main issues.

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said: “Today we close out one of the most important chapters in recent entertainment industry history.

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July: ‘We will not allow you to take away our dignity’

“This contract is an enormous victory for working performers, and it marks the dawning of a new era for the industry. Getting to this point was truly a collective effort.

“With the ratification of this agreement, SAG-AFTRA members will receive unprecedented wage escalation, significantly improved streaming compensation, and the first-ever crucial protections around the use of artificial intelligence technology.”

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The deal now specifies compensation has to equate to the amount of work that would have been done by the actor, while companies have to get the consent of performers to use their facial features as part of the creation of any synthetic elements.

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The actors’ strike came at the same time as the Writers Guild of America action, which was resolved in September, as the union agreed to a deal with studio bosses after 146 days on the picket line.

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Denny Laine: Paul McCartney pays tribute after Moody Blues singer and Wings guitarist dies aged 79




Denny Laine: Paul McCartney pays tribute after Moody Blues singer and Wings guitarist dies aged 79

Denny Laine, the lead singer of English rock band the Moody Blues and guitarist with Wings, has died aged 79.

The co-founder of both Wings, which also featured Sir Paul McCartney, and The Moody Blues “passed away peacefully” following a battle with lung disease.

In an Instagram statement, Elizabeth Hines wrote that it was an “absolute honour and privilege to not only be his wife, but to care for him during his illness and vulnerability”.

She wrote: “My darling husband passed away peacefully early this morning.

“I was at his bedside, holding his hand as I played his favourite Christmas songs for him. He’s been singing Christmas songs the past few weeks and I continued to play Christmas songs while he’s been in ICU on a ventilator this past week.

“He and I both believed he would overcome his health setbacks and return to the rehabilitation centre and eventually home.

“Unfortunately, his lung disease, Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), is unpredictable and aggressive; each infection weakened and damaged his lungs. He fought every day. He was so strong and brave, never complained.

“All he wanted was to be home with me and his pet kitty, Charley, playing his gypsy guitar.”

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Sir Paul posted on Instagram to pay tribute to Laine, saying he was “very saddened” by his ex-bandmates passing.

He said: “I have many fond memories of my time with Denny: from the early days when The Beatles toured with the Moody Blues.

“Our two bands had a lot of respect for each other and a lot of fun together. Denny joined Wings at the outset. He was an outstanding vocalist and guitar player.

“His most famous performance is probably ‘Go Now’, an old Bessie Banks song which he would sing brilliantly. He and I wrote some songs together, the most successful being ‘Mull of Kintyre’ which was a big hit in the Seventies.

“We had drifted apart, but in recent years managed to re-establish our friendship and share memories of our times together.

“Denny was a great talent with a fine sense of humour and was always ready to help other people. He will be missed by all his fans and remembered with great fondness by his friends. I send my condolences and best wishes to his wife, Elizabeth and family.

“Peace and love Denny. It was a pleasure to know you. We are all going to miss you.”

Ms Hines also wrote that the support from the public “brought him to tears”, and said her “world will never be the same”.

Denny Laine pictured with his art at the Rock Art Show in Willow Grove Park Mall in Willow Grove, Pa on December 18, 2016. Pic: Star Shooter/MediaPunch /IPX

She added: “Denny was an amazingly wonderful person, so loving and sweet to me.

“He made my days colourful, fun and full of life-just like him. Thank you sweetie for loving me, for all the laughter, friendship, fun and for asking me to be your wife. I will love you forever.

“Please give Denny’s friends and family the time and privacy needed as we grieve our loss.”

Born Brian Hines in Tyseley, Birmingham, in October 1944, Laine had been a member of Birmingham-formed The Moody Blues during the 1960s.

He quit the band shorty after releasing The Magnificent Moodies in 1965 over a conflict with their record label.

He then joined Sir Paul and Linda McCartney in the Wings line-up in 1971 before departing the band in the 1980s.

Laine was also part of the World Classic Rockers, a touring act which had Donovan, Spencer Davis and founding member of The Eagles Randy Meisner play at various times.

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