General Motors envisions a future in which self-driving cars aren't simply owned personally; they also pick up and drop off individuals. Along with its Cruise Automation subsidiary that it bought last year, the automaker has begun beta testing a ride-sharing app to hail self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EVs in San Francisco.
Cruise Automation has published video of its ride-sharing service, which is called Cruise Anywhere. However, it's only available to Cruise Automation employees at the moment, not the general public. About 10 percent of Cruise Automation employees are using the trial service with more enrolling each week. Still, this marks a significant step toward commercializing self-driving car technology.
“We’ve always said we’d launch first with a rideshare application, and this is in line with that and just further evidence of that,” Cruise CEO and co-founder Kyle Vogt told TechCrunch. “We’re really excited about how the technology is evolving, and the rate at which it’s evolving. This is a manifestation of that—putting the app in people’s hands and having them use it for the first time and make AVs [autonomous vehicles] their primary form of transportation.”
The smartphone app doesn't seem much different from traditional ride-sharing services such as Lyft or Uber. The employee calls a self-driving car to his or her location, the car shows up, and it transports the individual to their desired location. There is someone sitting in the driver's seat still; per California law, a human must be present during the operation of self-driving cars just to make sure nothing goes awry.
The fleet is set to be expanded by 100 cars in the next couple of months, though there is no word on the size of the current fleet. Currently, subscribers can use the service between 16 and 24 hours a day. The expansion should make it an around-the-clock service, though that may be fluid if more employees sign up.
The service may be a stepping stone to previous reports that said GM would roll out a self-driving ride-hailing service through Lyft this year. We doubt this service will launch in 2017, but it doesn't seem to be too far out.
Are you ready for the car to do all the driving?