November 8, 2023
Production of Cruise’s purpose-built self-driving taxi, the Origin, has been halted.
It’s the latest blow in what has been a difficult period for the General Motors autonomous vehicle subsidiary, during which it has suspended operations across the United States.
Developed from the ground up to be fully autonomous, the Origin is a boxy, shuttle-like people mover that has no steering wheel or pedals. It has long been considered pivotal to Cruise’s future growth and development.
The heavily hyped AV was approved for driverless testing in San Francisco in February, and as recently as September, Vogt was talking enthusiastically about regulatory approval [from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] being “just days away.” At the time, Vogt said this would allow Cruise to “start production and almost immediately start putting these vehicles on the road.”
Additionally, just a matter of weeks ago, Cruise confirmed plans for the Origin to be rolled out internationally, too, with operations in Tokyo earmarked for 2026.
But no approval from the NHTSA has been forthcoming, as the setbacks continue to mount up for Cruise.
Having agreed to a request by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to halve its fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt taxis in San Francisco in August following a couple of crashes, it then had its state permits for driverless deployment and testing removed by the DMV in October due to an “unreasonable risk to public safety.”
This followed an accident at the start of October, where a pedestrian was struck by a human-driven vehicle that propelled her into the path of a Cruise self-driving taxi, which then dragged her along the road before coming to a halt, leaving her trapped.
The removal of the permits prompted the company’s decision to pause all operations nationwide, as it acknowledged that its priority had to be “to rebuild public trust.”
It is understood that Cruise has produced hundreds of Origins already, and Vogt is reported to have told staff that this would be “more than enough for the near term when we are ready to ramp things back up.”
GM confirmed the development, issuing a statement which revealed that the company was “finishing production on a small number of pre-commercial vehicles,” before “temporarily” pausing production.
It also was keen to strike an optimistic tone, adding: “More broadly speaking, we believe autonomous vehicles will transform the way people move around the world, and the Origin is an important part of the AV journey – it’s the first scalable vehicle ever designed specifically for autonomous rides and will make transportation more accessible.”
What happens next is unclear, but Cruise is understood to be in discussion with regulators and partners as it bids to navigate a path forward.
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