GM’s Cruise Begins Testing Cars Sans a Driver

Self-driving car developer Cruise, largely owned by GM, Honda Motor Co. and SoftBank, has begun testing its self-driving cars with no safety driver on the streets of San Francisco. According to the company, it’s going quite well. 

Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said Wednesday. “We’re starting small with just a few cars, in a few areas of the city and we’ll be expanding to different parts of the city, at different tjmes of day, until we’re operating everywhere in the city.”

The California DMV gave Cruise the go ahead in October to begin testing its cars without a safety driver. The cars are performing autonomously, however, a company employee can be found in the passenger seat with access to a kill switch in the event they need to intervene. Ammann was “lucky enough” to be one of the first passengers. “It was wildly boring,” Ammann added. “The ride itself was extremely natural and predictable so it was kind of boring, but in all the right ways.”

The permit allows Cruise to test five driverless Chevrolet Bolt-based vehicles on certain streets. Cruise has tested over 300 cars in the city over the past five years but not without a monitor in the driver seat. Cruise is the fifth company to receive a driverless testing permit in California. Amman said the company will start with the allowed five with empty driver’s seats: ”You’re seeing fully driverless technology out of the [research and development] phase and into the beginning of the journey to being a real commercial product”

After receiving the permit to test the driverless cars, GM CEO Mary Barra told analysts it is a key factor in GM’s ability to advance its self-driving business: “If you think about ride-sharing today, the opportunity for profitability is in dense urban environments,” Barra added “having the opportunity to test it there is a pathway to faster commercialization and profitability.”

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