Cruise postpones plan to launch taxi driver without driver in 2019

Cruise will miss its goal to launch a large-scale self-driving taxi service in 2019, said CEO of GM subsidiary Dan Ammann in an interview on Tuesday. The company plans to dramatically increase the number of autonomous test vehicles on the road in San Francisco, but will not offer rides to ordinary people this year.

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Earlier, GM managers told investors that his autonomous ride service would be open to the public before the end of this year. Now it seems that Cruise is moving away from deadlines and starting dates altogether. Ammann, the former president of GM, who now leads the autonomous vehicle unit in San Francisco, would not even commit to launching the service next year, in 2020.

"Our goal is to get there as quickly as possible," said Ammann. “We want that moment to come as quickly as possible. But everything we do now will be dated by security. And that is why we are increasing our test and validation kilometers to reach that point as quickly as possible. "

The hordes of Cruise reflect the self-driving industry as a whole and have been both technological and regulatory. Recent reports characterize the company's vehicles as slow with irregular maneuvers. According to a recent story in The information, there have been "almost collisions with other vehicles, strange steering or unexpected braking." A report from Reuters Last year's Cruise vehicles experienced difficulty in determining whether objects on the road were moving. Ammann called both reports "outdated, out-of-context, incomplete and in some cases downright wrong."


"All we have done in recent years has been to position ourselves to do this safely and to be able to bring it on a very large scale," said Ammann, "when we are ready to go."

Cruise is still waiting for the federal government to accept, reject or reject a request for a fleet of fully driverless Chevy Bolt vehicles without steering wheels or pedals. The request was in limbo until last March, when the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it would ask for public comments and carry out an evaluation. That process was completed in May and now Cruise is waiting for a final decision. "We are in dialogue with them," said Ammann from NHTSA. "And nothing else to respond to."

This is not the first setback for Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company that was purchased by GM in 2016 for $ 1 billion. Two years ago, the company claimed it would be the first AV company to test its vehicles in New York City, but those plans disappeared after the company failed to obtain government approval.

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When it predicted it would launch in 2019, GM was under enormous pressure to keep up with its rivals, including Ford's Waymo and Alphabet. Just a few weeks before GM managers told investors about a profit call for a 2019 launch, Waymo demonstrated his fully driverless vehicles on a closed course in Central California to a number of media (including The edge). And Ford outlined plans to boost its own testing by its startup, Argo AI.

But a lot has happened since then. In March 2018, a self-driving Uber vehicle hit a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Waymo stopped testing non-driver vehicles without safety drivers on public roads. The Alphabet daughter launched a commercial ride service last year, but this is very limited and only available for early test drivers. Predictions about a wave of cars without driver in cities around the world have usually not come true.

However, it is not all bad news: Ammann confirmed that San Francisco, where the majority of the company's vehicles are being tested, will be where the ride-hailing service ultimately comes. (Cruise is also testing in Arizona and Michigan.) To collect the miles needed to get the confidence to start, Cruise plans to run the test fleet operating in the hilly streets of the city in the coming months. increase. It will also organize community events to answer questions from San Francisco residents, who in some ways are the company's unconscious test subjects in its public self-driving experiments.

"You are going to see many more cruise cars on the road," Ammann said. "I think we are already fairly common, but you will see a significant increase in cars on the road."

Cruise has grown in size over the past three years, from 40 employees in 2016 to 1500 today. Those employees are currently testing the company's beta service, complete with its own Uber-like app. The service is available seven days a week, so that Cruise can evaluate how people use autonomous vehicles as their primary mode of transport.

After a decade of huge investments and breathless media coverage, cars without drivers – the car that can go anywhere, without human involvement – remain postponed indefinitely. Despite the boasting of Elon Musk that by the end of next year he will bring more than a million robot taxis to the road, most operators turn expectations down. Even Waymo CEO John Krafcik, the man in charge of the company, has the most advanced technology and said last year: "Autonomy will always have some limitations."

Cruise is simply the newest company that has its own predictions in hand. But postponing the launch will not harm the company's profits. Cruise has many runways after raising $ 7.25 billion in the past year from SoftBank Vision Fund, T. Rowe Price, Honda and others. Much of that money will be needed for the company's ambitious vehicle development plans. In October GM said it would collaborate with Honda to design a self-driving car without traditional controls. That is a supplement to the steering-free Chevy Bolt on which Cruise is working with GM.

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Ammann said the partnership with Honda Cruise will enable "completely redefining what a vehicle looks like, because we are freed from the limitations of the typical layout."

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