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Cruise Gets the Go-Ahead to Test Driverless Cars in San Francisco

Cruise car seen in San Francisco streets
Cruise car in San Francisco streets | Cruise

Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors (GM), announced last week that it would begin testing its unmanned autonomous vehicles on the streets of San Francisco by the end of this year. Cruise added that it had received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its driverless cars in the Golden Gate City. While Cruise isn’t the first company to obtain such a permit, it signifies a milestone for the GM-owned company.

Cruise says, “It’s Time To Drive Change”

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Cruise CEO Dan Ammann wrote in a Medium post, “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.”

Ammann added that although it would be a “low key, quiet moment,” the echo of Cruise’s actions could be loud. Calling it “our moonshot,” Ammann explained, “This is where years of blood, sweat, and tears have been poured out by everyone on the Cruise mission. And it’s where over two million miles of city testing will truly hit the road for the first time: an electric car, driving by itself, navigating one of the most difficult driving cities in the world.”

But why San Francisco? According to Ammann, while suburban streets may make for easier testing grounds for its fleet of autonomous vehicles, he understands that it’s our cities that have become ground zero for the world’s ongoing transportation crisis.

Introducing the self-driven Origin

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Earlier this year, Cruise unveiled the Cruise Origin, a self-driving car of its own making. The vehicle is powered by a brand-new, all-electric platform developed by General Motors (GM) and employs a multi-layered sensor suite specially designed to track multiple people and objects.

According to Cruise, the self-driving car will be modular too. Meaning, the Origin is upgradeable to the point that the company won’t have to roll out a new fleet each time an improvement is made to its underpinnings.

Overall, though, Cruise says the Origin is less of a car and more of an experience. “What we came up with isn’t a car that you buy. It’s an experience that you share,” wrote Ammann in The Cruise Origin Story.

“It’s self-driven. It’s all-electric. It’s shared. And it’s our answer to the question about what transportation system you’d build, if you could start from scratch,” Ammann added.

But where will the Origin be manufactured? Based on recent news coming out of GM, it will be manufactured alongside the Hummer EV at GM’s Factory ZERO. Once known as GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center, the assembly plant has since been renamed and will take on building GM’s lineup of EVs.

Is Cruise the only one testing unmanned vehicles?

Cruise isn’t the first company to be granted a permit by California’s DMV to test unmanned vehicles on public roadways. Waymo, Zoox, and Nuro have also received such a permit from the state. Cruise, however, be the first to test a fleet of fully autonomous vehicles on the streets of San Francisco. 

According to Digital Trends, more than 50 companies have landed permits to test driverless cars in California. Unlike Cruise, though, most still require that a driver be present behind the wheel.