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Cruise

Cruise, the self-driving car startup that sold to General Motors last year, has reached a new milestone: it has a self-driving car model, based on its Bolt electric vehicle, that's now ready for the factory production line and ride-hailing passengers.

Why it matters: Cruise touts this new development as a giant step that puts it ahead of the competition. No one else, the company claims, has a "production design" self-driving car ready to roll off the factory line. This is also a reminder that unlike startups in the space, Cruise has the resources of a century-old automaker.

The car: Dubbed "Generation 3" (the company says it doesn't have a name for it yet), the new car has Cruise's latest iteration of sensors, self-driving software, and improvements to its interior.

  • About 40% of parts are new or modified from the original Bolt electric car.
  • It has a steering wheel (mostly due to current regulations that require wheels and safety drivers), though that may change down the line, Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt hinted.
  • This new car includes robust safety and redundancy systems so that in the event of a failure or issue in the self-driving tech, there are backups that will keep passengers safe. This was necessary as the car goes "from driving itself some of the time, to driving itself all of the time," Vogt said in reference to earlier models.
  • The cars will be assembled at GM's Orion plant in Michigan, according to Doug Parks, VP of autonomous technology.

Roll-out: So far, the company has produced about 50 of these cars and plans to ramp up manufacturing, though it declined to share details about the timeline. Cruise recently began to let its San Francisco employees hail rides in its self-driving cars and these third generation vehicles will soon be integrated into this fleet. Though these cars may someday be owned by consumers, Cruise is currently focused on how they perform in the context of a ride-hailing service (which also means costs are still high).

Gen 2: In a somewhat unusual move, Cruise is rolling out and testing more than one generation of its Bolt-based self-driving cars. Its "Generation 2" car, which executives describe as the "artisanal" version (no longer an initial model with various sensors cobbled together, yet not ready for the factory yet), is still fairly new and will continue to be on the road for tests even as the newer model comes off the assembly line. This generation has roughly twice as many sensors as the previous model, according to Parks, though he declined to say how many.

Still: Cruise has been shy to let outsiders try out its cars, so there are lot of questions remaining about their performance and the passenger experience. Others like Uber and Waymo have made those available to the public and press for some time now. It's also unclear how closely Cruise is working with Lyft, in which parent company GM invested $500 million last year, though Vogt says the companies are in touch.

Go deeper

Beijing Olympics: These countries have announced diplomatic boycotts

Photo: Zhang Qiang/VCG via Getty Images

Several countries, including Canada and Australia, have announced they will join the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest human rights abuses committed by China's government.

Driving the news: Leaders have faced pressure from human rights groups and others to boycott the Games, pointing to the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's Xinjiang region and other abuses.

Biden directs federal government to become carbon neutral by 2050

President Biden speaking to reporters outside of the White House on Dec. 8.

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that requires the federal government achieve multiple goals related to reducing its carbon emissions, including achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: Meeting the objectives of the order would require a massive investment by the federal government to buy electric vehicles, upgrade buildings and change how it procures electricity.

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Instagram's boss faces Congress' questions on harm to teens

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED

The head of Instagram will find himself in Congress' crosshairs for the first time Wednesday in the one area lawmakers have shown they are willing to pass tech regulations — protecting youngsters online.

Why it matters: Republicans and Democrats have found common ground in grilling tech companies on how their products harm children, especially after revelations in The Wall Street Journal about Instagram's potential harm to the mental health of teen girls.