General Motors’ self-driving subsidiary Cruise has filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requesting approval to begin producing and deploying its self-driving Origin robotaxi.
In a blog post published to its Medium page last week, Cruise’s Senior VP of Government Affairs and Social Impact, Rob Grant, confirmed the company had filed the petition with NHTSA, which seeks approval to begin building the driverless Origin robotaxi at its Factory Zero plant in Detroit and eventually put the vehicle into commercial service on public roads in the United States.
The Cruise Origin “will help expand mobility options for seniors, people who are blind or have low vision, and other communities that have traditionally faced barriers in access to reliable transportation,” Grant said in the blog post. The robotaxi rides on a dedicated Ultium battery-electric platform and features two inward-facing bench seats with seating for up to four passengers. It’s expected to enter production at the Factory Zero plant sometime in 2023.
The hardware and software array that enables the Origin to operate without a human driver was developed by Cruise in San Francisco using a fleet of specially modified Chevy Bolt EV-based test prototypes. The company recently received approval to begin testing the prototypes on public streets in San Francisco without a safety driver behind the wheel and has also begun a pilot program offering curious residents free rides in the vehicles to familiarize them with its self-driving tech.
The submission of the NHTSA petition “signals that Cruise and GM are ready to build and deploy the Origin, here in America,” Grant said.
“We look forward to NHTSA’s thorough review of our petition, and stand ready to continue working closely with them to ensure the safe and responsible deployment of this technology,” he added.
Cruise recently received a major $1.35 billion cash injection from Japan’s SoftBank. The investment bank invested $900 million in Cruise back in 2018 with the promise to invest another $1.35 billion in the company once its technology was ready for commercial deployment. This investment further serves as proof that Cruise’s technology is ready for commercial deployment. Other backers of Cruise include Microsoft, Honda and Walmart.
Cruise will deploy the Origin robotaxi on the streets of Dubai starting in 2023, as well, with the company having been granted exclusive access to autonomous taxi services in the United Arab Emirates city through to 2029. Honda will also import the Origin into Japan for testing starting later this year with the eventual goal of launching a mobility-as-a-service business similar to the company’s U.S. arm.