Cruise has announced that it’s now operating 24/7 in San Francisco, marking a significant milestone in its journey.
However, the wider public is currently only able to use the service in around one-third of the city between 10pm and 5:30am. Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt has promised that this will soon change as Cruise moves closer to launching a fully-fledged robotaxi service open to the public around the clock.
Vogt said the systems that power the robotaxi network in San Francisco are the same ones that will be used in the long-awaited Cruise Origin, which he said is “just around the corner”.
San Francisco has proven to be an ideal testing ground for Cruise’s electric robotaxis, thanks to its hilly, congested terrain. The city’s infamous fog has also proven troublesome for autonomous vehicles.
Operating robotaxis in San Francisco has become a key test of business viability for Cruise, which believes that if it can work in the challenging conditions of the city, it can work anywhere. Vogt believes the machine learning systems and capabilities developed in San Francisco will stand the company in good stead as it expands to other cities.
Vogt added that the company has also started advertising for a deputy general manager and commercial operations officer for Dallas, suggesting that the Texas city could be its next target for expansion.
Cruise has already begun operating robotaxis in Phoenix and Austin, and says its system has driven over a million miles without a driver behind the wheel.
While Cruise is still some way behind rivals like Waymo in terms of the scale of its autonomous ride-hailing operations, it has made significant progress in recent years.
The company has been boosted by the support of parent company GM, which is keen to stake a claim in the rapidly growing autonomous vehicle sector. GM has invested heavily in Cruise, which is now valued at around $30bn.
If Cruise is successful in expanding its operations beyond California, it could help to accelerate the growth of the autonomous vehicle market.
While the technology has made great strides in recent years, significant hurdles remain before fully autonomous vehicles become a common sight on our roads. These include regulatory challenges, safety concerns and issues around public acceptance of the technology.
However, with the backing of major players like GM and a track record of successful testing in a challenging urban environment, Cruise is well-placed to play a key role in shaping the future of autonomous transportation.
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