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Robotaxis Return But Only in Manual Mode

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GM robotaxis return in Phoenix after nearly five months of paused operations, the company said in a blog post. The catch? The cars will be in “manual mode,” so they won’t be driving themselves.

From Tech Crunch by Rebecca Bellan.

Cruise will resume manual driving of its autonomous vehicles to create maps and gather road information in certain cities, starting with Phoenix, the company said Tuesday. The GM subsidiary already had a presence in Phoenix before it pulled its entire U.S.-based fleet last year following an incident in San Francisco that left a pedestrian stuck under and dragged by a Cruise robotaxi.

Prior to that incident, Cruise had been announcing launches in new cities — including Dallas, Houston and Miami — at a startling pace. Critics accused the company of expanding too fast and cutting corners on safety.

Now Cruise appears to be going back to basics, a sharp pivot away from the aggressive growth strategy the company has been pursuing for the last few years. In 2022, former Cruise CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt — who stepped down amid last year’s controversy — told investors that Cruise had “de-risked the technical approach” by applying what worked well in San Francisco to similar ride-share markets.

In a blog post published Tuesday that reads like it could have been written in 2018, Cruise explains how it needs to first identify high-fidelity location data for road features and map information like speed limits and lane paint so that the AV can understand where it is in relation to its environment. The post then goes on to chart out how Cruise will eventually make it back to fully autonomous operations: slowly, supervised by humans, and with continuous validation of the technology.

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