A few days after Waymo began its robotaxi service Waymo One without a driver for the general public in Phoenix, GM Cruise received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles DMV to test autonomous vehicles without a safety driver on public roads. The permit comes with certain limitations: In total 5 driverless Cruise’s vehicles can operate on roads in San Francisco with posted speed limits not exceeding 30 mph during all times of the day and night, but not during heavy fog or heavy rain.
This makes GM Cruise the fifth company to join Waymo, AutoX, Nuro and Zoox.
GM Cruise CEO Dan Amman announced in a blog post that the company intends to operate the first cars in San Francisco at the end of 2020 without the previously mandatory safety drivers.
Today, Cruise received a permit from the California DMV to remove the human backup drivers from our self-driving cars. We’re 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.
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. 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.v
GM Cruise is using the Chevrolet Bolt (known in Germany as the Opel Ampera) as a test platform. The Chevrolet Bolt is a pure electric car, and the company currently has nearly 200 vehicles in its test fleet. Amman couldn’t help but take a small side blow to Waymo by describing suburban driving (as Waymo does in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix) as 30 to 40 times less complex than driving in a chaotic city like San Francisco.
And while it would be easier to do this in the suburbs, where driving is 30–40 times less complex, our cities are ground zero for the world’s transportation crisis. This is where accidents, pollution, congestion, and lack of accessibility collide. Often quite literally.
GM Cruise had shown some impressive videos of their own vehicles in San Francisco in the past months and which maneuvers and traffic scenarios they have to perform and understand. The Chevrolet Bolt used also differs from the one sold as standard because the built-in sensors and computers require more wiring, cooling and power.
In this video Amman talks about the motivation and the challenge, and you can also see some scenes of driverless cruise vehicles on the General Motors test track in Milford, which covers about 1.6 square kilometers (4,000 acres).
This article was also published in German.