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Cruise, GM’s self-driving unit, will begin giving driverless robotaxi rides in Phoenix and Austin within 90 days and before the end of the year, Crusie co-founder and CEO Kyle Vogt said during Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology Conference yesterday.
While it took the company 33 months to receive all the regulatory approval it needed to begin rides in San Francisco, according to Vogt, for the company’s next deployment locations it took just three weeks. Cruise plans to start operations small in both of the new cities, with hopes to scale more in 2023.
In Phoenix, Cruise is continuing to build on its relationship with Walmart. According to Vogt, as of just a few days before the conference and announcement, Cruise had received all regulatory approval necessary to perform autonomous deliveries with Walmart. It plans to begin those in the coming months as well.
Cruise began charging for fully driverless robotaxi rides in San Francisco in June 2022, and the company currently has 70 driverless taxis operating in the city. Right now, taxi rides in a Cruise vehicle cost similar amounts as rides in a Lyft or an Uber, but the company hopes to bring those prices down over time.
Vogt said the company has had great success with giving rides in San Francisco. Since launching, the company’s robotaxis have accumulated 300,000 autonomous miles, and nearly half of customers return for another autonomous ride within a month.
While Cruise was the first autonomous vehicle company to receive regulatory approval to charge for taxi rides in San Francisco, it has competition in both San Francisco and Phoenix. Waymo, the self-driving vehicle technology unit of Google parent Alphabet, has also been operating in both cities.
In August 2022, Waymo began fully driverless rides in downtown Phoenix to its trusted tester program members. The company is branding the rides as “rider only” trips to indicate that there is no safety driver behind the wheel of Waymo’s autonomous Jaguar I-Pace EVs. Waymo has a long history of operating in Phoenix’s suburbs, it began operations in the suburbs of Chandler, Tempe and Mesa in 2020.
Waymo has also been working to roll its service out in San Francisco. In March 2022, it announced that it would be giving driverless rides to its employees in the city. The news came less than a month after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued Waymo a Drivered Deployment permit, allowing the company to charge for its autonomous rides.
Waymo is delivering one of the keynotes at RoboBusiness, which runs Oct. 19-20 in Santa Clara and is produced by WTWH Media, the parent company of The Robot Report. Allison Thackston, technical lead & manager at Waymo, will discuss on Oct. 19 from 9:30-10:15 AM the technical challenges of developing autonomous vehicles. She will also provide updates on Waymo’s ongoing deployments and work. Prior to Waymo, Thackston worked at Nuro, Toyota Research Institute and Oceaneering. She’s also a founding member of the ROS2 Technical Steering Committee.