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Cruise’s journey started in San Francisco, and since then the company has deployed its robotaxis in Phoenix and Austin, and has started operations in Houston, Dallas, and Miami. According to Vogt, we can expect to start seeing Cruise robotaxis in Nashville within the next few months.
A year ago, however, Cruise was only operating its robotaxi services in San Francisco. 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 in Phoenix and Austin it took just three weeks.
Since then, Cruise hasn’t slowed down its expansion. According to Vogt, this rapid growth is possible because of the company’s decision to begin operations in San Francisco, a city notorious for fog, steep hills, and heavy traffic. Once Cruise’s robotaxis could handle San Francisco, it could apply what it learned to nearly any city, although the company has yet to tackle a city where it can expect heavy snow.
Because of all of the AVs experience driving, starting operations in a new city means identifying areas where the AV system doesn’t generalize well and fixing those, or simply retraining Cruise’s existing machine learning models using data from the new city. Occasionally, the company had to redesign parts of a system to better fit the new city.
Cruise has even given its robotaxis the ability to adapt to unusual situations, like those where pedicabs, pedal taverns, and even donkeys are present, without hard coding rules for each unusual situation.
While Cruise has had much success in rolling out its robotaxi services, it hasn’t been without challenges. Earlier this year, the company issued a voluntary recall of 300 Cruise vehicles with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The recall was in response to a minor collision where a Cruise robotaxi hit the back of a San Francisco bus.
Cruise’s autonomous driving system is also currently being investigated by NHTSA. In a filing, NHSTA said it was interested in two different issues that had been reported to the administration that both result in the robotaxis becoming hazards for others on the road.