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GM’s Cruise admits driverless taxi service will arrive late

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Cruise, the self-driving unit of General Motors (GM), has said its first commercial deployment will not happen this year, as had been hoped, and that further testing of the technology will take place in San Francisco.

GM executives had previously told investors that Cruise’s autonomous ride-hailing service would open to the public by the end of 2019.

In a blog post, Cruise CEO Dan Ammann declined to announce a date when the service might become available, but said that “large-scale deployment” would take place in San Francisco to hasten its testing regime.

“While Cruise is already logging the most miles in a complex environment, having our cars running many more miles on the road will further accelerate our rate of learning and safety validation,” he said. “It will also give us crucial operational learnings from running a larger-scale fleet and a larger-scale ride service, which we currently operate for our employees.”

With Cruise’s focus on electric vehicles, Ammann was keen to point out that the firm already owns nearly 40 per cent of San Francisco’s fast chargers and that it intends to build the largest EV fast-charging station in the US in the city.

He said the decision to go all-electric was largely down to air pollution concerns.

Last year, GM petitioned the US Government to allow Cruise to use driverless vehicles that eschew all human controls such as a brake, steering wheel, or accelerator pedal, in favour of vehicles that are entirely autonomously controlled.

“With such high stakes, our first deployment needs to be done right and we will only deploy when we can demonstrate that we will have a net positive impact on safety on our roads,” Ammann added.

The decision to delay the driverless service comes as many automakers are facing up to the reality that development of the technology may be more expensive and complicated than first hoped.

Larger firms are increasingly working together in order to keep R&D costs at a respectable level, such as the partnership between Volkswagen and Ford that was announced in January. 

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