February 9, 2023
General Motors’ self-driving subsidiary Cruise has been given official approval to test its Origin robotaxi without a safety operator on board in San Francisco.
In December, it was revealed that the company had submitted an application to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to deploy the Origin on the city’s roads.
Now Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt has confirmed that the request has been granted.
Vogt tweeted: “Today we received approval from the CA DMV to test the Origin on public roads! Huge step for @Cruise as we continue to work with regulators to deploy this phenomenal American-made vehicle.”
Asked by a follower to clarify whether the permit Cruise has been issued allows for “driverless” operation, Vogt simply said “Yes.”
The Origin’s greenlight in San Francisco is a major step for Cruise, because unlike the robotaxis the company currently has in commercial service in the city, it was built from the ground up as an autonomous vehicle (AV).
As such, it’s extremely distinctive – a boxy, shuttle-like people mover that has no steering wheel or pedals and with seats that face each other. This is in stark contrast to Cruise’s current San Francisco fleet, which is made up of modified Chevrolet Bolts retro-fitted with driverless tech.
The decision to give the go-ahead is particularly interesting within the context of the current climate regarding self-driving vehicles in San Francisco, where city officials have expressed their concern at a series of disruptions that have been caused by robotaxis and are keen to slow down their rollout.
Indeed, it was recently revealed that the San Francisco County Transportation Authority had contacted the California Public Utilities Commission to express its reservations about plans from both Cruise and Waymo, which also operates in the city, to extend their operations to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Officials from the authority complained: “If the Commission approves sweeping authorizations for both Waymo and Cruise, the hazards and network impacts caused by planned and unplanned AV stops that obstruct traffic could soon affect a large percentage of all San Francisco travelers.”
Nevertheless, the Origin has now been given the go-ahead and is likely to be introduced in other cities and countries in due course. Already Cruise is mapping Dubai in the United Arab Emirates with a view to the Origin starting operations this year, while it has also been working alongside Honda in Japan to adapt AVs to local traffic conditions.
The Japanese automaker is an investor in Cruise and plans to use the Origin for Mobility-as-a-Service operations in its home country.
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