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GM’s Cruise Seeking To Test Driverless Origin Robotaxi On San Francisco Streets

GM’s autonomous vehicle technology division, Cruise, is moving to test the Cruise Origin robotaxi on the streets of San Francisco without a steering wheel or manual controls.

Per a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, Cruise submitted an application to the California Department of Motor Vehicles in August requesting authorization to test the Cruise Origin robotaxi in San Francisco. The California DMV began its review of the request in October.

The application outlines Cruise’s plans to test the fully autonomous Origin, including stipulations that the test be restricted by certain geographic limits and hours of the day, both of which are expected to be expanded over time as testing develops.

The deployment of fully autonomous Cruise Origin robotaxis on public roads would be a major step for the company. Cruise has so far tested its autonomous vehicle technology via a fleet of retrofitted Chevy Bolt EVs, and only recently began offering fully autonomous rides to customers this past June. If granted, the new permit to operate Cruise Origin in San Francisco would not allow passengers.

GM unveiled Cruise Origin in January of 2020. Built from the ground-up as a fully autonomous, all-electric robotaxi, rather than as a passenger vehicle retrofitted with autonomous tech like Cruise’s fleet of Chevy Bolt EVs, the Cruise Origin incorporates a boxy body and sliding doors, as well as opposing bench seats in the cabin space for passengers. Going forward, Cruise hopes to operate thousands of Origin vehicles in cities across the U.S. GM estimates that the business could generate $1 billion in annual revenue by 2025 and $50 billion annually by 2030.

This latest permit request follows a drawdown for several of Cruise’s competitors, including the Ford- and VW-backed Argo AI, which shuttered operations in October.

Cruise has also experienced several setbacks in its quest to develop fully autonomous driving technology. Back in September, a Cruise vehicle was involved in a crash that resulted in minor injuries, while previous incidents of Cruise vehicles blocking traffic and emergency vehicles have also been reported. Cruise is reportedly losing roughly $500 million per quarter.

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Jonathan Lopez: Jonathan is an automotive journalist based out of Southern California. He loves anything and everything on four wheels.

View Comments (12)

  • Frankly, I do not see why getting rid of the taxi driver would give any substantial advantages to taxi service.

    • Really? No driver means you don’t have to pay an employee. Plus, you can run that vehicle 24/7 except for a bit of downtime between charges. And while charging, a full cleaning of the robots I can occur.

      That cost savings will quickly add up.

      • A taxi can run 24-7 with 5 minute fill ups. Charging the drone will put the vehicle out of service for hours a day.

  • And there is a shortage of labor. So there will also be a shortage of service availability. With a robotaxi service shift workers will be able to take a safe ride at any time of the day or night.

    • Safe if you can somehow eliminate the criminal element that will undoubtedly prey on these vehicles knowing the only person in it is an unsuspecting passenger.

    • That is a pipe dream. I would venture to say that it does not even do a tenth of that- and even that is generous.

  • When the public is finally convinced that the Origin is safe, growth will be "hockey stick" - GM will deploy them in the US as fast as they can make them, and then, quickly, to global markets. I can see them proliferating in higly populated cities, globally, not particularly due to labor savings on the driver, but because they're EV's, and therefore less pollution. Plus enhanced safety of passengers, both due to zero threat from a dishonest/criminal driver, but also due to the fact Cruise will record accident rates at less than human drivers.

    The reduced pollution could prove a major factor - with low cost, safe, readily available transportation available, people might be less inclined to purchase, own, and operate a vehicle. Want to go grocery shopping? Order a Cruise. Easy. Further, want some groceries? Place your order with the store, the store delivers via Cruise/Origin.

    EV and AV - Origin and Cruise, will change the auto market globally, particularly in densely populated cities. Growth will be "hockey stick".

    • Dream on. Any person who sells their personal transportation to rely on these drones is naive. The public, if anything is seeing more and more how the world of unfettered autonomous vehicles is a fantasy.

  • IMHO, this whole initiative underscores the failure of the billions "invested" in public transportation the past 50 years.

    • Unfortunately the "woke" gm does not learn from past failure including its own bus division that was jettisoned in the 1980s