Cruise Anywhere, which launched Tuesday, works just like Uber or Lyft: Open the app, type in your location and destination, and wait for your car. It’s available to 10 percent of Cruise’s 250 employees, between 7 am and 11 pm, and uses the company’s fleet of 461 Chevrolet Bolt EVs. (There will still be a safety driver sitting up front, no doubt thrilled their colleagues are headed to happy hour while they work the late shift.)
The program’s launch marks a turning point for Cruise, which GM bought in 2015 for $600 million, as it switches from developing autonomous technology to building a self-driving taxi service. And of course, it’s more than a fringe benefit for hardworking engineers. It marks a new chapter in the development of technology Cruise has spent three years on. Real-world testing will reveal how the vehicles handles the road, and the people it carries.
Of course, Cruise employees aren’t civilians, or a representative sample of a potential customer base. But they are far more likely to keep quiet about hiccups with the tech, and will provide valuable feedback without exposing Cruise to a PR maelstrom if something goes awry.
It remains to be seen how long this program will run, or when Cruise might expand it to the general public, either in California or a state with less restrictive regulations. And it’s not clear how GM’s deal with Lyft to work together on a self-driving car network fits in with Cruise’s decision to build its own app for connecting riders with cars.
But for now, we can say GM’s bid to stay relevant in the age of autonomy just got a boost.
I have to say that is one ugly car. And it’s not ready for prime time, yet. Those side attachments look flimsy. I suspect a shopping cart might take one out.
That said, a quick check of my calendar shows this is still 2017. So what’s in store?
Automotive Promises Timeline
- Ford: Truly self-driving vehicles by 2021
- GM: Unspecified, with rumors of self-driving vehicles by 2018
- Honda: Self-driving on the highway by 2020
- Toyota: Self-driving on the highway by 2020
- Renault-Nissan: 2020 for autonomous cars in urban conditions, 2025 for truly driverless cars
- Volvo: Self-driving on the highway by 2021
- Hyundai: Highway by 2020, urban driving by 2030
- Daimler: Nearly fully autonomous by early 2020s
- Fiat-Chrysler: CEO expects there to be some self-driving vehicles on the road by 2021
- BMW: Fully self-driving vehicles possible by 2021
- Tesla: End of 2017
Other than Tesla, which likes to overpromise and under-deliver, the timeline promises are very realistic. It’s easy to see who is way behind, notably Fiat-Chrysler.
The key date appears to be 2020, for highway driving. Trucks will be ready by that date as well.
Regulation is the only missing ingredient. I expect that will be worked out in the next 2-3 years. Then within two years of regulatory approval, there will be a huge rush to driverless trucks with mass adoption coming quickly.
Claims of truck thefts are silly. Within minutes of a truck not being where it is supposed to be, state troopers will be notified. There will not be time for thieves to break into a truck, unload the goods (into what but another easily spotted truck?) and get away. The theft notion is absurd, but it keeps cropping up in comments.
Claims the public will not accept the movement are also nonsense. Trucks will be on the highways, and driverless airport taxis soon follow. There will be higher charges (way higher) for taxis with drivers.
Aging boomers with night vision problems and millennials will be among the first to adopt.
People like me, who like to speed, will be among the last to adopt. Alas, rising insurance costs will eventually force everyone to let the car be in control of driving.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock