As we reported last week, GM’s self-driving tech subsidiary, Cruise Automation, is getting a fresh injection of capital from Japan’s Honda Motor Company, and the three entities – General Motors, Cruise, and Honda – have hatched a plan to co-develop a “purpose-built autonomous vehicle” for Cruise. The reason we mention it: we don’t feel that nearly enough attention was paid to the fact that, apparently, the GM-Cruise-Honda partnership will result in a dedicated autonomous vehicle, rather than a high-tech autonomous system intended for deployment on a variety of vehicle models.
Previously, we’d believed that GM’s Cruise Automation was working on a fully-autonomous system akin to the GM “Super Cruise” autonomous driving technology in the sense that it would be adapted to multiple vehicles from General Motors’ portfolio. A more broadly-deployed autonomous driving system based on Cruise’s work is still likely part of the GM autonomous strategy, mind you, but last week’s announcement was the first we’d heard of an all-new, specially-developed autonomous vehicle from Cruise Automation.
In a release, General Motors said that the new Cruise Automation vehicle will “serve a wide variety of use cases and be manufactured at high volume for global deployment.”
No further details are available at this time, but given the expense of autonomous driving integration and the current limitations of the technology, it seems likely to us that the GM autonomous strategy will echo Ford’s, to an extent. Ford announced in the summer of 2016 that it plans to put a fully-autonomous, SAE Level-4 self-driving car on the road in rideshare and ride-hailing programs in 2021, with no definitive timeline for making such a vehicle available for public purchase. Cruise’s vehicle could be similarly reserved for commercial use – at least initially.
Technical details – such as the forthcoming Cruise AV’s vehicle platform and propulsion system, and even whether it will have controls (steering wheel, pedals) for human intervention – are still unknown, but the vehicle will almost certainly be a plug-in-hybrid, if not a pure battery-electric, vehicle.
Keep checking back here at GM Authority for more Cruise Automation news as it breaks.