Cruise, the autonomous vehicle firm majority-owned by General Motors, is due to have its first model on the road in early 2023. That vehicle will bear no resemblance to the Chevy Bolt EV, but the electric hatchback was used for development purposes. In fact, an early prototype based on the pre-facelift Bolt EV is presently on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. We snapped some photos of the mule and are presenting a live photo gallery of that very car.
The basic shape of the Cruise prototype is very familiar, yet there are obvious differences too. One particularly notable one can be found at the front corners, where large sensors extend sideways from within the bumper on sturdy arms. These are crucial in terms of gathering information about what is happening immediately ahead of the car, but they would also be a major inconvenience to other road users. The modified Bolt EV would have been driven without issue on a test track, but there would have been no question of using it on real-world roads as a result of these additional sensors. Instead, production vehicles will have many more sensors mounted in the front bumper itself.
This side view of the Cruise is complicated by the intricate arched windows of the museum, but it is still clear that the vehicle carries several cameras and rotating radar assemblies on its roof. These allow the vehicle to collect more information about its surroundings. Rear cameras can also be seen.
Those rear cameras are more clearly visible in this rear three-quarter shot. Like the ones at the front, they extend well beyond the normal perimeter of the car. Since they are positioned in the centre of the rear wheels, they must also have presented more of an engineering challenge. One part of this challenge was to connect them to the roof sensors.
Up front, this was presumably done by running wires along the supporting arms, but that appears to have been impossible at the rear. Instead, wiring runs up the bodywork, taped into place on the C-pillar – an inelegant solution, perhaps, but sufficient for an early prototype.
Later Bolt EV-based Cruise models featured more elegant connecting solutions, like the ones used last year to deliver food bank meals to less fortunate individuals in the San Francisco area during the COVID-19 pandemic. In mid January of this year, more than 140,000 such meals had been made.
More recently – last week, in fact – we reported that Cruise had raised $2.75 billion in its latest funding round. The total valuation of the GM subsidiary now exceeds $30 billion.
The Cruise model mentioned at the top of this article, the one that will be on the road in early 2023, is the Level 4 autonomous Cruise Origin robotaxi, which will appear first on the streets of Dubai. The Cruise Origin will be the sole provider of autonomous taxi services in Dubai until 2029. In the following year, the Dubai Road and Transit Authority (RTA) hopes to have 4,000 taxis on its roads.
The Cruise Origin is expected to enter production at the GM Factory Zero plant (formerly Detroit-Hamtramck plant) in 2022. Like other GM electric vehicles, it will use the automaker’s Ultium battery technology and Ultium Drive electric motors.