Cruise Automation will launch operations in Miami, after establishing a presence in several western cities.
GM's robotaxi ride-hailing service, which launched in San Francisco nearly two years ago, takes several weeks to map a city prior to starting commercial operations for paying customers.
A handful of companies are currently using Level 4 autonomous vehicles in real-world environments, though Cruise is one of just two that have launched operations in several cities.
It has been less than two years since Cruise launched its robotaxi service in San Francisco. Since that time, Cruise has expanded its operations in Austin, TX, and Phoenix, AZ, with mapping and testing in these two cities coming online in late 2022. And earlier this year the company added Dallas and Houston to its planned commercial launch cities.
If you're sensing a pattern here, all five locations so far have been in western cities and states that have been very friendly to the testing of autonomous technology, with quite a few developers using San Franscisco and Phoenix in particular for verification.
Now, it is finally the East Coast's turn, with Cruise revealing late this month that it will bring operations to Miami.
"Phase 1 is to familiarize our fleet with additional, diverse road conditions while collecting data," the company said on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Of course, this doesn't mean that Cruise robotaxis will flood the streets of Miami tomorrow. There are several phases of mapping and testing that have to be performed first, before commercial operations kick off for paying customers. But throughout the past year the company has shown that growth in this sector can, in fact, happen on a scale of months rather than years.
The geography of Miami should not present any unique challenges to Cruise when it comes to mapping with lidar in detail, as the city's grid network was planned and built quite late compared to some other eastern cities.
But we do have to worry about one particular Miami-area driving phenomenon: Vehicles doing 80 mph in the right lane on freeways, while slower traffic sits in the far left lanes often at half that speed. That's a phenomenon that is perhaps far rarer for San Francisco where Cruise launched operations first, and which offers one of the most complex urban environments in the country and has its own share of common traffic hazards, collecting valuable data in the process.
"We partnered with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) to develop a multi-year study of naturalistic human ride-hail driving collecting over 5.6 million miles of data in San Francisco," the company notes.
Earlier this year Cruise achieved a milestone, noting in February that the company's vehicles have collectively covered a million miles with no drivers behind the wheel, all over the span of some 15 months. Cruise expects to hit the 2 million mile mark this summer.
And Cruise robotaxis aren't destined to be all-electric Chevy Bolts forever, even though those are the vehicles that GM's autonomous division launched first in the Bay Area in 2021. The company's Origin shuttle, designed without physical driver controls, is due to enter testing this year before the planned launch of commercial operations.
Will we see robotaxis edge out human ride-hailing drivers in the second part of the decade, or will this process take longer? Let us know what you think.
Jay Ramey grew up around very strange European cars, and instead of seeking out something reliable and comfortable for his own personal use he has been drawn to the more adventurous side of the dependability spectrum. Despite being followed around by French cars for the past decade, he has somehow been able to avoid Citroën ownership, judging them too commonplace, and is currently looking at cars from the former Czechoslovakia. Jay has been with Autoweek since 2013.