Cruise Automation employees are using autonomous ridesharing in San Francisco

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Cruise Automation’s ridesharing service may be for employees only, but it’s still a major step toward making self-driving cars available to the public.

General Motors’ Cruise Automation subsidiary is running an autonomous ridesharing service in San Francisco, but you have to be a Cruise employee to use it.

Called Cruise Anywhere, the service allows Cruise employees to hail an autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EV with a smartphone app, and go anywhere they want in San Francisco, seven days a week. The service is still in the beta development stage, hence the employee-only restriction. But some Cruise employees are already using it as their primary form of transportation, according to TechCrunch.

Cruise says about 10 percent of its San Francisco-based employees are using the service, and claims there is a waitlist. Self-driving cars are available between 16 and 24 hours a day, depending on fleet scheduling, and can traverse virtually all of San Francisco. Cruise claims one employee has taken more than 60 rides over roughly the past three weeks. Humans have had to take over driving on a handful of occasions, but the majority of mileage has been covered autonomously, according to Cruise.

The company previously revealed that it uses an app as part of its San Francisco autonomous-car testing program, but it wants to develop that app into a full-fledged ridesharing service. Cruise believes that will help make it easier to commercialize its autonomous-driving tech. Most companies believe the future of ridesharing is autonomous, because of the potential for greater revenues from driverless vehicles that can stay on the road longer.

Cruise faces lots of potential competition. Boston-based startup NuTonomy is running a pilot autonomous taxi service in Singapore, and will provide autonomous rides to Lyft customers in Boston later this year. Lyft itself just launched a self-driving car development program, and also has a relationship with Waymo. Uber also gives autonomous rides to customers in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Arizona.

We’re still far from the day when hailing a fully autonomous car is an everyday occurrence, but there may already be too many players competing for the same customers. While Cruise’s beta ridesharing service is a major step, it also faces an even bigger obstacle: getting people who don’t already work for the company to trust self-driving cars.