General Motors' self-driving subsidiary, Cruise, has embarked on its initial testing and data collection phase in Miami, as announced in a tweet on Wednesday. The company is set to introduce its fleet to diverse road conditions while gathering essential data during this crucial phase.
Although specifics about the subsequent phases, such as Phase 2, and the timeline for its commencement, remain undisclosed, Cruise is moving forward with its expansion plans. It is worth mentioning that Cruise recently expanded its operations to Houston and Dallas, where supervised testing is already underway. The company's spokesperson revealed that they are on track to offer driverless ride-hail services to the public in the near future, albeit with the presence of human safety drivers initially. However, Cruise intends to transition to fully driverless testing before launching its ride-hail service to riders.
While Cruise's operations have primarily been focused in San Francisco, where it competes head-to-head with Alphabet's Waymo, the company is now venturing into Miami. The permit process in California has created some hurdles for both Cruise and Waymo, as they await the approval to provide robotaxi services round the clock in the city. Despite gaining significant support from the technology and business communities, opposition from residents and city agencies has led to delays in the permit approval process.
As Cruise moves forward with its expansion, the question arises about the choice of autonomous vehicles it will utilize in Miami. It is unclear whether Cruise plans to deploy its autonomous Chevrolet Bolts (even though GM has discontinued the vehicle) or opt for its purpose-built electric AV, the Cruise Origin. The Origin is designed without a steering wheel or pedals, indicating its dedication to fully autonomous driving. In the past, Cruise's CEO Dan Ammann had mentioned plans to launch "tens of thousands" of Origins on public roads in the coming years.
Prior to its Miami debut, Cruise was already preparing to commence testing its Origin vehicles on the streets of Austin. While human-operated prototypes have been actively collecting data for the AV perception system's testing and validation, the fully driverless tests in Austin are yet to begin. Nevertheless, a spokesperson from Cruise confirmed that these tests are expected to commence shortly.
With its expansion into Miami and ongoing efforts in other cities, Cruise remains dedicated to realizing the vision of widespread autonomous driving and creating a future with safer and more efficient transportation options for all. As the company pushes forward, it aims to demonstrate the potential of autonomous vehicles as a transformative force in urban mobility.