The inevitable drive to change our lives for the better

driverless, Cruise

Tens of billions of dollars are being spent on creating a driverless vehicle that will change the lives we lead.

Cruise, which was bought by General Motors in March 2016, has unveiled the battery-operated Origin, a driverless vehicle that has no steering wheel, no engine, no pedals, just two seats front and rear and sensors. The Origin is the size of a SUV and its intention is to change the way we get about.

Cruise CEO Dan Ammann, formerly President of General Motors, wants drivers to move away from individual ownership to a sharing model, to help reduce emissions, accidents and congestion. He said the Cruise Origin was not a concept vehicle.

“It is self-driven. It is all electric. It is shared.”

Cruise’s origin was unveiled in San Francisco on Wednesday as various car manufacturing giants race to launch self-driving cars using the latest artificial intelligence technologies. Driverless vehicles have the potential to cause huge disruption in the automotive industry and are also likely to transform the ride-hailing business.

“I guess it’s important to note that we haven’t validated and released our technology yet,” said Cruise co-founder and chief technology officer Kyle Vogt. “So we haven’t gone out there and said it’s safer than a human and getting ready for prime time. But we’re getting pretty close.”

Vogt, who is based in San Francisco, added: “By the time this vehicle goes into production, we think the core software that drives our AVs will be at a superhuman level of performance and safer than the average human driver.

“And we’ll be providing hard empirical evidence to back up that claim before we put people in a car without someone in it.”

Cruise’s Origin is 100% a ride-share device.

“We built this car around the idea of not having a driver and specifically being used in a ride-share fleet,” said Vogt.

“It’s designed to be comfortable if it’s shared, but if it’s just you, you’ve got so much space in here you can really stretch out,” he says.

“This vehicle is engineered to last a million miles and all the interior components are replaceable. The compute is replaceable, the sensors are replaceable. And what that does is it drives the cost per mile down way lower than you could ever reach if you took a regular car and tried to retrofit it. The replacement cost and the upkeep of that would just kill you from a business standpoint.”

Cruise, as stated was bought by General Motors in 2016. In April 2017, General Motors said it planned to invest US$14 million to expand Cruise operations in California, adding an estimated 1,163 full-time employees by 2021. In May 2018, Cruise announced that Softbank’s Vision Fund would invest US$2.25 billion into the company, along with another US$1.1 billion from GM itself. In October 2018, Honda announced it would be investing US$750 million in Cruise, followed by another US$2 billion over the next 12 years.

Cruise has been working on Origin for three years but it was Honda’s involvement that has brought it to this stage so quickly.

Softbank founder and CEO, billionaire Masayoshi Son, has invested in Cruise and has formed a joint venture Monet with Toyota to develop business that will use driverless-car technology, such as mobile convenience stores and delivery vehicles in which food is prepared en route, CNN reported.

driverless, Softbank, Masayoshi Son

Toyota President Akio Toyoda and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son announced the project in Tokyo on Thursday. SoftBank will own just over half of Monet, while Toyota owning the rest.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and Baidu, from China, are spending billions developing self-driving vehicles.

Alphabet’s Waymo announced Thursday it will start using its autonomous long-haul trucks in Texas and parts of New Mexico.

Waymo has been testing its self-driving trucks in a handful of locations in the US, including Arizona, San Francisco and Atlanta. In 2018, Waymo announced plans to use its self-driving trucks to deliver freight bound for Google’s data centres in Atlanta.

driverless vehicle, driverless, Waymo

Waymo also has been testing a self-driving car service in Phoenix, Arizona, since late 2018. People selected to use the service use a smartphone application to summon autonomous vehicles to travel in an area about 100 square miles (250 square km) at its maximum, according to Waymo chief John Krafcik.

Waymo expected businesses to be interested in using the autonomous ride service to carry customers to and from shops.

Uber said on Thursday it would bring its autonomous vehicles to the US capital Washington starting on Friday, for mapping and data collection only.

“We believe self-driving technology has the potential to drive safer streets, cost-effective rides, and increased access …. We feel privileged to be taking our first step towards bringing self-driving technology to life in our nation’s capital,” said Uber Advanced Technologies Group CEO Eric Meyhofer.

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