Cruise, the self-driving rideshare arm of GM, has requested authorization to extend its robotaxi ride trials across California. With a year of testing experience in several cities spanning three states, including San Francisco, this autonomous driving expert aims to broaden its reach to encompass the entire Golden State.
Founded in 2013 and subsequently acquired by GM in 2016, Cruise received $14 million in funding from the automaker and immediately set to work retrofitting Chevy Bolt EVs for full autonomy. Over the past decade, the startup has made significant strides in its native California, particularly in the Bay Area, as it strives to develop completely driverless rides despite the inevitable hurdles encountered by any fledgling enterprise, particularly one that seeks to deploy EVs sans human drivers. Cruise began operating in San Francisco and then expanded to Phoenix, Arizona, and more recently to Austin, Texas. In February, CEO, President, and Co-founder Kyle Vogt announced that Cruise had logged over one million miles of driverless driving, joining Waymo in the elite “1M club.”
While Cruise will have to navigate bureaucratic obstacles at the DMV, the company now seeks to extend its robotaxi testing across California, though the specific cities where it will conduct trials remain unknown.
Per Market Watch, Cruise has applied for a permit with the California DMV to (eventually) expand its driverless testing throughout the state. While expansion is clearly the plan for Cruise and California has emerged as the first state to allow its driverless rides, the startup is not sharing much else at this point. Per Cruise spokesperson Drew Pusateri, “While this application doesn’t represent any immediate change to our testing or operations, we hope to continue working with the California DMV to safely and responsibly test our services in other cities in the future. This is the first step in that process.”
According to Pusateri, while Cruise aspires to extend its robotaxi services to cover the entirety of California, it currently lacks any specific cities in mind for its next launch. Upon receiving approval from the California DMV, Cruise initially intends to provide rides solely to its employees, with additional licenses required to expand the service to customers, whether they are paying or not. As part of a pilot initiative with the non-profit SF New Deal, Cruise initiated free rides for hospitality and service employees during their late-night shifts in San Francisco last week. Cruise may potentially broaden such free pilot schemes to other regions of California in order to continue collecting test data in new settings, as it moves closer to launching a full-scale robotaxi service across the United States.