GM Delays Launch Of Self-Driving Cruise - If You're Surprised Raise Your Hand
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GM's Cruise is the latest company in the burgeoning autonomous-driving space, which has drawn billions in investment, to run into speed bumps. Google affiliate Waymo planned to be the first to start a driverless ride-hailing service before the end of last year. But by the time the calendar flipped to 2019, it was only available to about 400 test families in suburban Phoenix, and its entire fleet of Chrysler minivans still had drivers behind the wheel.
Ammann said the company would expand testing in San Francisco here, and added in a blog post that Cruise was working with Honda Motor Co and General Motors Co to develop purpose-built autonomous vehicles.
Ammann did not say when the company now expects to deploy a ride-hailing service using self-driving vehicles. It had earlier hoped to deploy such a service here by the end of 2019, but in April, GM Chief Executive Mary Barra declined to repeat that goal.
Cruise has raised $7.25 billion during the past year from investors including SoftBank, Honda Motor Co and investment firm T. Rowe Price. As GM and Cruise executives have done in the past, Ammann said Cruise would launch its commercial service when it was sure the vehicles would be safe.
“When you’re working on the large scale deployment of mission critical safety systems, the mindset of ?move fast and break things’ certainly doesn’t cut it,” Ammann wrote in a post on Medium on Wednesday.
Ammann alluded in his post to broader concerns about the trustworthiness of “Big Tech” and said Cruise was in talks with regulators about how to measure when its technology “will have a net positive impact on safety on our roads.”
Cruise Chairman Ammann Blog
Today, we are announcing a new set of actions that will advance Cruise to the next phase towards large scale deployment here in San Francisco.
The essential building blocks are in place
We have said from the beginning that the benefits of self-driving cars will only be realized by deploying safely and at massive scale. Over the last four years, we have defined and executed on the building blocks necessary to support that approach; we have hired well over a thousand of the world’s best engineers, raised billions of dollars of capital, achieved deep integration with General Motors and focused our testing and development in the most complex urban environments.
Since 2016 we have successfully scaled Cruise by more than 35x, from around 40 people to 1,500 today. In just the past few months, we’ve made key engineering and artificial intelligence / machine learning executive hires, and with Chief People Officer Arden Hoffman’s leadership we are on target to nearly double our engineering talent this year.
Over the past year, we have raised $7.25 billion from some of the world’s most prominent technology investors, including the SoftBank Vision Fund and T. Rowe Price and from our automotive partners at General Motors and Honda. This gives us the deep resources necessary to scale our services in San Francisco and beyond.
We are more than three years deep into our unique partnership with General Motors, which provides us with a multi-year head start on the seamless integration of hardware and software and related safety validation benefits. Today, we are the only company with self-driving cars that are manufactured on a large scale automotive assembly line to the same rigorous standards of safety and quality as any other production car.
From the outset we have been committed to solving the most difficult version of the self-driving challenge, as that is what will allow us to ultimately scale most quickly. That’s why the majority of our testing occurs in San Francisco, one of the most complex urban environments that is more than 40 times more challenging than a simple suburban setting. When we can safely deploy at scale in San Francisco, we will be able to more quickly expand everywhere else.
The next steps to scale
It is only because we have these building blocks firmly in place that we can now take the next steps toward large scale deployment in San Francisco: accelerated testing and safety validation, increased community engagement, scaled electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure buildout and developing and building our next-generation self-driving vehicle.
Accelerated testing and safety validation
In order to reach the level of performance and safety validation required to deploy a fully driverless service in San Francisco, we will be significantly increasing our testing and validation miles over the balance of this year, which has the effect of carrying the timing of fully driverless deployment beyond the end of the year. While Cruise is already logging the most miles in a complex environment, having our cars running many more miles on the road will further accelerate our rate of learning and safety validation. It will also give us crucial operational learnings from running a larger scale fleet and a larger scale ride service, which we currently operate for our employees.
Increased community engagement
It also means you’ll see our cars more often in San Francisco. We know self-driving cars are a point of great interest for many, so, as a result, we will significantly increase Cruise’s presence in the community. We’ll be sharing more information on how our cars work through education, outreach and live events at iconic places like the California Academy of Sciences where people can check out our cars, ask questions and share their feedback with us.
Scaled EV infrastructure buildout
Expanding testing of what is already the world’s largest fleet of all-electric self-driving cars also means we’re investing in electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure in a very big way. Cruise already owns nearly 40 percent of all EV fast chargers in San Francisco, and now we’re building the largest EV fast charger station in the country right here.
Developing and building our next-generation self-driving vehicle
Even as we build the infrastructure to power today’s self-driving cars, we’re well underway to creating the self-driving car of tomorrow, in partnership with GM and Honda. This is not a concept car — hundreds of the best Honda, GM and Cruise engineers are working together on-site in Warren, Michigan, where they are deep into the vehicle development process. This new vehicle completely re-imagines from the ground up what a car can be and we can’t wait to share more in the near future.
Winning the tech race and the trust race
Delivering self-driving cars at scale isn’t just about winning the tech race, it’s about winning the tech race and the trust race. There is clearly a reckoning happening today around “Big Tech” and Silicon Valley, and I believe it’s something that needs to be taken very seriously. We’ve seen what happens when transformative technologies are deployed without deep engagement with, and consideration for, the community.
At Cruise, we are taking a different approach. We will deploy with our community, not at our community. Right now we are setting the stage by expanding and deepening partnerships with the city, first responders and other organizations that matter to San Franciscans, such as MADD and the Coalition for Clean Air.
It’s also why we made a decision early on to make all of our self-driving cars all-electric so we can reduce air pollution in San Francisco and in every city we will operate in.
When you’re working on the large scale deployment of mission critical safety systems, the mindset of “move fast and break things” certainly doesn’t cut it. With such high stakes, our first deployment needs to be done right and we will only deploy when we can demonstrate that we will have a net positive impact on safety on our roads. We are in discussions with our regulators on how this will be measured and validated. We will share more on this topic in the near future.
The fastest path to large scale deployment of technology that can save millions of lives, reshape our cities, reduce emissions, give back billions of hours of time and restore freedom of movement for everyone is to build trust. As a result, we’re taking all the right steps in the right order, side-by-side with the community. This is how we will bring our mission to life safely and at scale. If you’d like to join us on this mission, we’d love to hear from you.