Self-driving vehicles are on the brink of disrupting the automotive industry. Cruise, the self-driving company majority-owned by GM, is helping chart the course of transforming transportation in cities.
Cruise is the only company with access to the capital and engineering talent necessary to bring self-driving vehicles safely to scale. Unlike other companies that are retrofitting conventional vehicles with autonomous technology, or designing their own vehicles for the first time, GM's relationship with Cruise brings expertise in automotive design, engineering, manufacturing, safety testing and proven quality methods refined over more than a century. GM is and remains the first automaker to use mass-production auto assembly line methods for self-driving vehicles, which occurs at our assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan.
Every Cruise AV test vehicle is also an EV that is derived from the Chevrolet Bolt EV. Introducing these technologies in tandem accomplishes multiple goals, including increasing acceptance of EVs and encouraging buildout of EV charging infrastructure. In addition, there are benefits to integrating AV technology into an EV—as opposed to a conventional or hybrid vehicle—from an engineering perspective.
Today, Cruise is making rapid progress to deploy self-driving vehicles that offer a great user experience, operate with zero emissions, and, most importantly, are safe to ride in. The journey to commercialization is being made in close collaboration with key technology collaborators. In 2019, Honda announced an investment of approximately $2 billion over 12 years to help develop a purpose-built AV, as well as to explore global opportunities for commercial deployment of the Cruise self-driving vehicles.
Similarly, in early 2021, Cruise and GM announced a long-term strategic relationship with Microsoft to accelerate the commercialization of self-driving vehicles. The companies will bring together their software and hardware engineering excellence, manufacturing know-how and partner ecosystem to transform transporation.
To unlock the potential of cloud computing for self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize its unique self-driving vehicle solutions at scale. Microsoft, as Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, will also tap into Cruise’s deep industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.
Clearing a Testing Milestone
Thanks to a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, and after more than five years of rigorous vehicle testing over 2 million miles of driving, and countless hours of hard work from thousands of dedicated Cruise and GM engineers and support teams, in 2020, Cruise began operating self-driving vehicles on the streets of San Francisco without a driver behind the wheel. The permit made Cruise the first self-driving vehicle company to operate a vehicle without a driver behind the wheel in a major U.S. city.
Over the past five years, Cruise has conducted nearly all testing in one of the most complex environments in the world—downtown San Francisco. Here, test vehicles regularly confront situations such as unprotected left turns, construction zones, cyclists and pedestrians, and experience more than 40 times greater complexity than they would find testing in simple suburban settings.
Beyond the complex environments to which Cruise submits their self-driving vehicles daily, engineers have created machine learning-driven simulations that allow the AV software to “drive” in an infinite number of simulated environments, gaining experience more quickly than could be possible on the roads. Cruise also used simulation to develop the Sensor Placement Tool, which determines the optimal placement of sensors to create overlapping, 360-degree coverage around every Cruise vehicle.
Our Purpose-Built AV
In 2020, Cruise introduced the Cruise Origin, a purpose-built, all-electric and shared self-driving vehicle. The Cruise Origin represents several aspirations for the future of mobility: a vehicle that is shared, autonomous, electric and, above all, safe to operate.
The Cruise Origin will operate without an internal combustion engine, a gas tank—or a driver. In its place, the vehicle will have more space for passengers and will operate in ridesharing fleets. To ensure reliability, the vehicle has built-in redundancy to eliminate single points of failure across sensing, computing, networking and power. With no backup human driver, Origin uses purpose-built sensors and computers to deliver exceptional performance. It will be equipped with software that Cruise AVs have been testing and refining for years on the streets of San Francisco.
Origin is the result of a collaboration between Cruise, GM and Honda. Cruise focused on the self-driving technology itself, as well as the service’s customer-facing design. GM has been focused on Origin’s flexible all-electric platform, as well as manufacturing scale. And Honda, a Cruise investor and engineering collaborator, is helping to come up with creative engineering solutions.
Shared Mobility Models
The concept of "shared" extends beyond the Cruise Origin and is, in fact, expected to be a hallmark of Cruise AVs, a further reflection of the changing nature of transportation. The global population, particularly in cities, is growing rapidly. By 2030, the world is projected to have 39 megacities with more than 10 billion inhabitants. At the same time, we recognize that most privately owned vehicles spend most of their time unused—and ride-sharing currently represents only a small fraction of vehicle miles driven in the U.S.
This presents opportunities to use vehicles more efficiently: decreasing the number of cars on the road, but also increasing utilization rates of those that remain by more people riding in them. Taking this another step, when passengers choose to ride together in shared cars or shuttles, they increase efficiency and reduce congestion even further.
Our customers not only understand these benefits—they are demanding them. The changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic notwithstanding, there is a new desire for transportation access that doesn’t necessarily include traditional ownership models. Although many of those models will remain strong in large parts of the U.S. and around the world, people everywhere, and especially the growing population in urban areas, are eager for a different type of relationship with transportation. This shift provides us with a tremendous opportunity to offer personalized, premium, on-demand solutions that connect customers to the people, places and moments that matter to them.