The self-driving vehicle startup Cruise has begun operating a “completely autonomous” on-demand taxi service for its employees in San Francisco. The news stimulated several questions for us, so we sent over a handful of them.
Despite being “completely autonomous,” it should be noted that there is still a safety driver behind the wheel (as required by law) ready to take control if need be. Reportedly, though, this has been a very rare occurrence — with the vast majority of driving done via the employee service having been done completely autonomously.
- What’s the timeline for key next steps in the service rollout?
- When and where will Cruise start offering its service to non-employees?
- How long until Cruise aims to cover >50% of the population?
Rather unsurprisingly, we didn’t collect much info. That said, we also didn’t receive the lame “we’re not commenting on that right now” sort of answer. Instead, a Cruise rep was open in indicating that they were in a rather fluid exploratory phase and waiting to see where the waters led them. The precise answers to CleanTechnica‘s questions regarding the above three matters were:
- Uncertain — Priority is to make sure our self-driving technology is safe and reliable in all circumstances, which is a monumental engineering challenge.
The new employee service, which is dubbed “Cruise Anywhere,” works like pretty much any other on-demand taxi service out there — with the only major difference being that it’s restricted to Cruise employees.
Currently, Cruise Anywhere only works within the mapped areas of San Francisco where the company’s test fleet operates.
At the moment, approximately 10% of Cruise’s San Francisco employees are using Cruise Anywhere, and additional users are being signed up each week. “Employees are even using it as a primary mode of transportation — to and from work, to run errands, or to meet up with friends,” the email Cruise sent to CleanTechnica stated.
Other than initial limitations regarding location (San Francisco) and user base (employees), there are occasionally still some limitations depending upon availability of the R&D fleet (composed of modified Chevy Bolt EVs) — meaning that the service is available anywhere from 16 to 24 hours a day, depending on the day, but not 24/7. Plans are to grow the fleet to more than 100 cars over the coming months, though, which is supposed to allow for 24/7 service.
While Cruise hasn’t been on our radar for a very long time — we first covered it last year — the California startup was actually founded back in 2013, so it’s not super young. In fact, if it were human, it would already be in the “running around wild” phase. Perhaps that’s what this beta program is.
“We’ve always said we’d launch first with a rideshare application, and this is in line with that and just further evidence of that,” stated Cruise CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt in an interview with Tech Crunch. “We’re really excited about how the technology is evolving, and the rate at which it’s evolving. This is a manifestation of that — putting the app in people’s hands and having them use it for the first time and make AVs their primary form of transportation.”
Here’s more from the Tech Crunch coverage: “One Cruise employee has already taken more than 60 rides using Cruise Anywhere over the past three weeks or so, and uses it for everything from running errands to going out to drinks. The goal, again, is to build a user experience ready for consumer use — though Cruise isn’t saying if or when it might open it to members of the general public, or expand it to other cities where it’s conducting AV testing.”
As a reminder, GM’s plans for the future likely include using Cruise’s self-driving tech for the launch of some sort of on-demand taxi service. That’s, of course, if Cruise doesn’t manage the whole thing itself.
Overall, this kind of service seems to be exactly where the auto industry is headed, and GM and Cruise in tandem appear to be ahead of the curve right now.
Check out more Cruise stories here.
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