Dec 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

Cruise unleashes driverless test cars in San Francisco

Image of Cruise self-driving test vehicle in San Francisco

Cruise, the self-driving technology company backed by General Motors and Honda, has begun testing cars in San Francisco with no human behind the wheel.

Why it matters: The driverless tests represent a small but important step toward the future deployment of autonomous vehicles, said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann.

  • "What we’re witnessing here is the move of real self-driving out of the R&D lab and on to the path to being a commercial product that everyone can use."

Reality check: The testing is still fairly modest. Cruise's newly issued driverless test permit in California limits it to just five test vehicles.

  • And while the permit applies to the entire city, Ammann said the cars will stick to just a few San Francisco neighborhoods, and then steadily expand "to new parts of the city, and different times of day...until we're operating everywhere and around the clock with a full fleet of our driverless AVs."
  • A Cruise video highlighting the first driverless trip shows it occurred at night, in a residential neighborhood, with no other cars encountered except those parked along the side of the street.
  • An operator in the passenger seat held a "kill switch" but had no access to the traditional driver controls, a Cruise spokesperson tells Axios.

What they're saying: "There are no shortcuts to achieving a moment like this – especially when the complexity of the driving environment is like 40 times more difficult than a typical suburban setting," Ammann said.

For the record: In October, Waymo opened its driverless taxi service to the public in a Phoenix suburb.

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