Cruise Automation, now wholly owned by General Motors, is paving the way to bring autonomous vehicles to a ride-sharing service near you. And quickly, too.
Forbes caught up with Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt, and he reiterated the point many GM officials have made in the past year: self-driving cars and coming, and they’re coming very soon.
“We started with about 46 people at the time that we announced the acquisition, a fairly small group. Now we’re up close to 150,” Vogt said. “We had one or two Nissan Leaf (test) vehicles and now we have 50 Chevrolet Bolts that are driving around three states, California, Arizona and Michigan.”
Cruise has also posted a handful of onboard video footage showing its 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EVs maneuvering San Francisco streets and all their obstacles with ease. These prototypes use a 360-degree vision system comprised of laser LiDAR, cameras, radar, an operating system developed by Cruise and a cloud-connected communications system to bring the vehicle to life.
Vogt went on to say GM has largely let Cruise do its own thing, giving the company a very hands-off approach to development. Even with that kind of management style, its autonomous vehicles are coming along at a heck of a clip.
“We’ve had a plan in place for a while and it’s going according to schedule. From what I can tell it’s much faster and going to happen much sooner than most people in the industry think,” Vogt said. “We’re planning to deploy in a rideshare environment, and very quickly.”
A previous report stated 2018 would be a big year for GM’s autonomous vehicle projects, stating “thousands” of self-driving Bolt EV would be made available for Lyft, in which GM made a sizable investment into in 2015.
The Cruise CEO is confident in the company’s work and thinks GM has a winning notion with what it has assembled between an automaker and a San Francisco start-up. The confidence comes at a time when many players have entered the space promising autonomous vehicles and seamless software. Vogt believes many won’t make it in the long run.
“It’s become crowded. There are many people in this space but there are few or none that have what GM has managed to assemble here, which is both a highly capable technical team that’s been working on this and has deep industry experience, plus the actual ability to deploy this at scale in a safe and reliable fashion. I think we’re in a pretty good place.”