In a memo sent to GM employees this week, GM’s vice president of EVs and AVs, Ken Morris, said the automaker’s EV and AV programs are on schedule and revealed that GM recently started testing Cruise Origin prototypes in the real world as well.
“Despite the pandemic, we haven’t missed a beat,” Morris said in the memo, which was obtained by Electrek. “Our EV and AV programs remain on track. In fact, from 2020 until 2025, we will allocate more than $20 billion of capital/engineering resources to our EV/AV programs, which equates to more than $3 billion annually.”
“The Cruise Origin will be built at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant – our first plant dedicated entirely to electric vehicles, and will be powered by our Ultium battery system,” the letter also said. “We already have a test vehicle powered by the battery system on the track at [Milford Proving Ground in Michigan], with preproduction vehicles coming next year.”
The Cruise Origin is a driverless, six-passenger shuttle based on the GM BEV3 electric vehicle platform. While GM only started testing real prototypes of the vehicle recently, it has been developing its autonomous software and camera/radar/lidar array on a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV-based prototypes in San Francisco for the past four years or so. The COVID-19 outbreak sidelined this fleet of autonomous test vehicles, which rack up miles to help develop Cruise’s AI platform, but it later found a solution to the problem by helping to deliver meals to the local residents in need at the height of the pandemic.
“Seeing a means to serve its community, Cruise volunteered its support to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and SF New Deal, a San Francisco based nonprofit, dedicated to keeping small businesses working during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Morris said. “Using the Cruise AVs, the Cruise team has made almost 100,000 contactless deliveries and counting, allowing them to continue to capture real-world data, and continue to meet their intended milestones.”
The Cruise Origin is expected to go into production at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant some time in 2022. It’s not entirely clear how Cruise plans to use the Origin early in its life, though the eventual goal is to use it as a driverless ride-sharing platform similar to Uber or Lyft, but without the costs of paying a human driver.