General Motors autonomous car unit, Cruise, has started to offer driverless rides to residents of San Francisco as it moves toward the launch of a full-fledged robo-taxi service.
Following a test run of the service last week, Cruise has released a video (below) showing the reaction of the very first passengers as they rode through the streets of the Californian city in a vehicle that had nobody behind the wheel.
With most riders in the video experiencing autonomous trips for the first time, the reactions were understandably upbeat, ranging from, “This is so cool” to “It’s just weird,” along with comments such as, “The car drove better than most of the drivers I’ve been in the back of a car with.”
In a blog post on Tuesday, February 2, Kyle Vogt, Cruise interim CEO and co-founder, announced a new sign-up page for folks interested in taking a free ride through the streets of San Francisco in one of Cruise’s autonomous Chevy Bolts.
Vogt said the service will begin with a “small number” of users, but it will gradually increase as it deploys more of its driverless cars on public roads.
Cruise’s video reminds us of the one released four years ago by Waymo, another giant in the autonomous-car space. With backup drivers being gradually removed from both companies’ self-driving vehicles, Cruise and Waymo are planning to build cars without a steering wheel.
The news of Cruise’s move to offer driverless rides to the public comes as the SoftBank Vision Fund, which initially invested $900 million in Cruise in 2018, agreed to pump another $1.35 billion into the company — a cash injection that Vogt said will enable Cruise to expand its engineering team and take its driverless service to more communities.
Cruise was founded by Vogt and Dan Kan in 2013, with General Motors stepping in to buy it three years later. Besides SoftBank, funding has come in from a range of investors, including Honda, which has also put several billion dollars into Cruise’s autonomous-car project.
Moving forward, Cruise plans to use its vehicles for full-fledged robo-taxi and delivery services, with the current trial in San Francisco taking it another step toward its goal.
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