Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of General Motors, said Monday it has begun manual data collection in Seattle and Washington, DC, the first step toward launching commercial robotaxis in the cities.
From an article in TechCrunch+ by Rebecca Bellan.
Data collection involves manually driving a robotaxi around to grab information on the local driving environment and climate. The next step will be mapping the new cities.
The move to expand operations to two cities on opposite coasts comes as pressure mounts for the robotaxi company in its hometown of San Francisco. Cruise, along with its competitor Alphabet-owned Waymo, secured permits in mid-August from California regulators to expand their commercial, fully driverless robotaxi services across San Francisco 24/7.
In the week that followed, Cruise vehicles were involved in a series of incidents, including 10 robotaxis stalling and causing gridlock, a vehicle that drove into wet cement, and a crash with a fire truck that left a passenger injured. As a result, the California Department of Motor Vehicles requested that Cruise immediately reduce its robotaxi fleet by 50% in San Francisco while it conducts an investigation into the company.
Despite these issues, Cruise is doggedly moving forward with its expansion plans. The company in 2021 said it plans to have “tens of thousands” of Cruise Origins, Cruise’s yet-to-be-deployed purpose-built AV, on roads in major U.S. cities in the coming years. The U.S. Department of Transportation has still yet to approve
“We’re pipelining our deployment playbook across several cities simultaneously now,” tweeted Cruise founder and CEO Kyle Vogt.
Seattle is the northernmost city that Cruise has approached. Most autonomous vehicle companies have stuck to testing along the sun belt or in cities with mild weather. Inclement weather like rain or snow can affect the ability of sensors, like lidar, radar and cameras, to accurately perceive the environment and make safe driving decisions. As a rainy city with plenty of hills, Seattle will present a unique challenge for Cruise’s self-driving system.
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