Last week, Waymo, the developer of a self-driving vehicle owned by Alphabet has expanded the first service of its kind to offer travel to passengers around Phoenix – without anyone behind the wheel. Videos shared by Waymo and others show that his minivans navigate wide sunny streets with ease.
Now Cruise’s rival, a subsidiary of General Motors, has taken a step toward running its own taxi service on the hilly, winding, swarming pedestrian streets of San Francisco. Cruz said Thursday that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has given him permission to test up to five of his modified Chevy Bolts without anyone behind the wheel. In a blog post, Cruise CEO Dan Aman said the city will run truly driverless until the end of the year.
Most of the more than 60 companies with DMV licenses to test autonomous vehicles in California must keep at least one safety driver inside, who is behind the wheel and monitoring the technology. Four other companies ̵
The permit is a sign that companies like Cruise are “out of the technology development phase,” said Kyle Vogt, the company’s technical director.
In order not to frighten the neighbors, Cruz says that the launch of a car without a driver will be gradual and will start in just one neighborhood; refused to specify who. The DMV permit limits the five vehicles to speeds below 30 miles per hour and prohibits their operation in heavy fog or heavy rain. The slow launch will “start to introduce people to the concept that cars may come without a driver,” says Vogt. “Maybe not in the timeline.” [people] I thought a few years ago, but they come and expect this and start adjusting to it. “
Cruise, like much of the industry, acknowledged that the technical challenges of self-driving cars are more difficult than previously thought. It was originally planned to launch an autonomous car service by the end of 2019. Vogt has learned its lesson: He says it is no longer “reasonable to set a firm, firm deadline or date” when fleets of truly driving vehicles funds can ferry paying passengers to San Francisco.
Among the challenges, according to Vogt: The cruise needs to know that the vehicle will operate safely and sensibly if, say, an internal wire is loose. He needs to know that the car will react safely in the face of a situation it is not trained to handle. To that end, Cruise has been testing driverless cars for months at the General Motors facility in Michigan.
San Francisco has not always been comfortable with self-tests among them. In the five years since Cruise began testing in California, his cars have been involved in battles with champions and carried at least one wrong golf ball to the windshield. Collision reports published by the DMV show that California’s self-driving cars are involved in accidental fender bends. The latest reports from September show that cruise vehicles tested autonomously were rear-end, collided and involved in collisions that reportedly sometimes left the company’s drivers safe with neck or back pain. Proponents of self-driving say that while software-driven vehicles will never be perfect, they will keep roads safer than people who are sometimes distracted, tired or drunk. Neither the San Francisco City Hall nor the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency have answered questions about Cruz’s new permit.
This future may be difficult to visualize, but Cruz has some ideas. Earlier this year, the company hosted a launch event in San Francisco for a vehicle called Origin, a six-seater electric vehicle designed for autonomous greeting and delivery. “This is what you would build if there were no cars,” said Aman, CEO.
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