Cruise, the self-driving technology company backed by General Motors and Honda, is now showing off its vehicles driving through the streets of San Francisco — sans driver.
“A moment five years and 2 million miles in the making: Cruise zero-emission vehicles were ready to drive without anyone at the wheel on the streets of San Francisco,” Cruise proclaimed on its website, promoting a YouTube video revealing its test cars traversing several roads in the city with no test driver behind the steering wheel.
Those miles, according to Cruise officials, came during all times of the day and night and under adverse weather condition. The video shown comes after the company received regulatory approval to begin driving without safety drivers in the vehicles.
“Cities like San Francisco are where accidents, pollution, congestion, and lack of accessibility collide—often quite literally,” a Cruise executive said in the lead into the video. “We have built an AI that not only handles the mundane parts of driving, but also the crazy stuff that we see on the road every day.”
Driving in San Francisco is a difficult task, according to the company and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which claims motoring through that city is 40 times more complex than driving in the suburbs.
Ray Wert, Cruise spokesman, told TheDetroitBureau.com in an e-mail, “Our vehicles without test operators have been operating in San Francisco as of the first half of last month. As we begin to use our permit, we will maintain a safety operator in the passenger seat.
“The safety operator has the ability to bring the vehicle to a stop in the event of an emergency but does not have access to standard driver controls. Eventually, this safety operator will be fully removed once we’ve built trust with the city we’re deploying in.”
Wert said at the moment the Cruise vehicles are not undertaking any additional duties such as making deliveries.
“Self-driving vehicles are one of the greatest engineering challenges of our generation,” Cruise has observed on its web.
Outside observers, such as Wall Street analysts, have noted that expectations that automated vehicles can move beyond well-defined, geo-fenced grids with minimal traffic challenges have diminished dramatically over the year and companies such as Waymo have shown more interests in AVs that carry freight rather than passengers in urban traffic.