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August 17, 2023
The announcement was made on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, where the company said: “Hi Charlotte. We’re thrilled to launch our initial testing across the Queen City today. More work to come as we work towards going driverless in your city. Stay tuned!”
Local media in North Carolina have reported seeing the company’s self-driving taxis (converted Chevrolet Bolts, fitted with a suite of sensors to deliver their automated functionality) out on public roads.
At this early stage, the self-driving taxis are being tested with human safety supervisors on board to monitor progress.
The news comes just a matter of days after General Motors-owned Cruise, and chief rival Waymo, were successful in convincing the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to allow them to expand their services in San Francisco in a hearing that was widely interpreted as being pivotal as to the future of self-driving taxis.
Despite some fierce local opposition over the operations, which are accused of causing traffic hold-ups across the city, CPUC approved the companies’ applications to offer commercial services 24/7 in San Francisco, opening the door to an accelerated rollout.
Cruise’s arrival in Charlotte follows a string of announcements about launches in other American cities as it attempts to scale, although operations in each appear to be making varying degrees of progress.
Late in 2022, it confirmed it had completed its first paid rides in Phoenix, Arizona, and Austin, Texas, and throughout 2023 it has added a number of other cities to its plans.
In each case, the company is expected to follow the route it has taken in San Francisco, with services, operating hours and area coverage being extended incrementally.
As CEO Kyle Vogt explained: “Since each new city requires less work than the last, we’ve been able to ramp up the rate at which we launch in new cities.
“We’ve got a playbook running now. Scout a city, augment our datasets, retrain, validate and go. Once we’re up and running, the data keeps streaming in.”
This approach was underlined by a social media post from Vogt on August 11 that confirmed the dramatic rate of scaling. “Yesterday we crossed 4 million driverless miles! We’re now driving at a pace exceeding 1 million driverless miles per month.”
For context, Cruise recorded its millionth mile of driverless testing in February.
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