GM's Cruise has a big, driverless announcement.
There was a time when GM's Cruise autonomous driving division was modifying and testing the Chevy Bolt, or rather a fleet of them. These Bolts lacked a steering wheel and were part of the division's first stage of autonomous vehicle R&D. Last January, the Cruise Origin was revealed, which may, at first, look like a fancy box on wheels. We can assure you it's anything but. Now, if you live in San Francisco, California, you'll soon see unmanned Origins out testing on public roads.
Cruise CEO Dan Ammann has announced in a Medium post late last week that the division has received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles that not only allows for testing to get underway, but also for the removal of human backup drivers.
"Before the end of the year, we'll be sending cars out onto the streets of SF - without gasoline and without anyone at the wheel," Ammann wrote. "Because safely removing the driver is the true benchmark of a self-driving car, and because burning fossil fuels is no way to build the future of transportation."
Ammann definitely knows a thing or two about the auto industry; he was previously president of GM, and the fact that California gave Cruise permission to proceed is a sign of technological confidence. Ammann also rightly points out Cruise is "not the first company to receive this permit, but we're going to be the first to put it to use on the streets of a major U.S. city." It is, in fact, the fifth company to receive a driverless permit from in the state. Others include Alphabet's Waymo, Nuro, and Amazon's Zoox.
Cruise's permit allows its cars to travel anywhere within the San Francisco city limits but only at a top speed of 30 mph. Both day- and nighttime driving are also allowed.
Ammann also mentions the coronavirus pandemic has helped accelerate the need for driverless vehicles. Why? In his own words: "The pandemic has seen the killing of Americans on our roads accelerate to the fastest rate in 15 years. Less traffic caused people to drive like idiots. More speeding, drinking, and drugs. Fewer seatbelts. Self-driving cars will save millions of lives."
Eventually, the Cruise Origin will be available to customers as robotaxis and the company continues to develop its ride-hailing app for the task at hand.