General Motors subsidiary Cruise has received approval to begin operating its self-driving prototype vehicles on public roads without a safety operator behind the wheel.
In a Medium post published this week, Cruise CEO Dan Ammann revealed the company has received a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to remove the human backup drivers from its fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV vehicles. He also said the company plans to begin operating the robocars on public roads in San Francisco before the end of the year.
“Today, Cruise received a permit from the California DMV to remove the human backup drivers from our self-driving cars,” Ammann said in the post. “We’re not the first company to receive this permit, but we’re going to be the first to put it to use on the streets of a major U.S. city.”
“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,” he added. “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.”
While Cruise has been testing its Chevrolet Bolt EV prototypes on San Francisco streets for years now, this will mark the first time that it will send completely unmanned vehicles out on the road. Rival company Waymo has a similar permit to test its driverless prototypes on Arizona streets, although Cruise believes that its efforts are more significant due to the chaotic nature of San Francisco streets.
“(San Francisco) is where years of blood, sweat, and tears have been poured out by everyone on the Cruise mission,” Ammann also said. “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. And while it would be easier to do this in the suburbs, where driving is 30–40 times less complex, our cities are ground zero for the world’s transportation crisis. This is where accidents, pollution, congestion, and lack of accessibility collide. Often quite literally.”
The data obtained through Cruise’s fleet of Chevy Bolt EVs is being used to develop the driverless Cruise Origin robotaxi. The Origin is slated to enter production in the coming years at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Michigan.