General Motors subsidiary, Cruise, recently made headlines when the company’s operational license in California was suspended due to safety concerns. Cruise is a “robotaxi” service, which utilizes a fleet of driverless, autonomous cars to drive customers around.
Many University of San Francisco students are familiar with Cruise, due to USF’s participation in the Cruise pilot program from January to May of this year. Under the program, students received free rides from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Foghorn has reported on this issue in “Campus Reactions to Cruise’s Suspension” on page 4.
For the spring semester, students had the option to use Cruise’s services for free. Free late-night transportation is useful. Regardless of whether students may be coming home from a party, headed to a partner’s residence, or getting off of work, free rides at night helps students both physically and fiscally.
Maintaining a private car in the city can be expensive. In 2022, CNBC ranked San Francisco the seventh most expensive city in America for gas. Moreover, Forbes reported this year that most college students couldn’t afford a repair bill if their car broke down. Ride-share alternatives like Uber or Lyft can similarly be a burden on students’ wallets. Particularly, students at big events like concerts may find themselves forking out the big bucks when leaving crowded events, due to surge pricing, where rideshare apps increase pricing in times of high demand, as explained by SFGate.
Driverless cars have also alleviated anxieties students may feel about traveling late at night. Calling a Cruise meant students had more transportation options that didn’t require them to brave the risks associated with public transportation, like harassment or health concerns
Other rideshare apps don’t fix the problem. CNBC reported that Uber is facing a lawsuit in San Francisco County in which more than 500 female-identifying passengers filled complaints of gender-based violence from drivers. Cruise provided students, especially female-identifying students, a seemingly safer way to travel. The free ride program has revealed a need within the community. Now that the program is gone, its absence is felt, despite alternatives provided by the University.
USF’s Department of Public Safety offers a free Night Safety Shuttle Program, which is “intended to provide a safe means of transportation when no other form is available,” according to the University website. However, these shuttles only operate within a mile radius of campus. According to a 2022 U.S. News World Report, 55% of USF students live off-campus, limiting the amount of people that can access this service.
Despite alternative methods, Cruise’s program provided affordable and seemingly secure options for students getting home. The end of free Cruise rides exposed a hole in student safety measures that needs filling. Its suspension is a loss for the USF community.