Autonomous car startup Cruise has debuted a driverless, all-electric Cruise Origin at a launch event in San Francisco.
In a blog post, the company’s CEO Dan Ammann detailed the vision behind the vehicle, saying: “We wanted to reimagine transportation as if the car had never existed. So, we removed the engine. We removed the driver — who, more often than not, is tired, distracted, frustrated, and rushed. We removed the equipment that’s there to support the driver , including the steering wheel, pedals, rearview mirrors, windshield wipers, and cramped seats.”
Different models of autonomous vehicle ownership have been mooted. Waymo, which has been trialling services in Phoenix, Arizona, allows customers to request pickup via an app. Tesla is touting owners being able to send out their cars to service others while they are not using them. Cruise, it seems, is favouring a model of shared ownership, with Ammann being reported as saying: “It’s not a product you buy, it’s an experience you share.”
Although formed as a startup, Cruise was acquired by American automotive giant General Motors (GM) in 2016. Aside from GM, the majority owner, Cruise’s backers include Honda and SoftBank of Japan.
The former invested an initial $750mn in 2018, with plans for a further $2bn over time, while the latter injected some $2.25bn in the same year. In total, the company’s funding rounds have raised over $5bn, reflecting the sheer volume of money being invested across the world to bring autonomous vehicles to the market.
Competition to achieve such a service is fierce, with big players including the likes of the Alphabet Inc-Owned Waymo, Tesla and Chinese transportation company DiDi. The eventual goal is an autonomous vehicle at level 5 of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) Levels of Driving Automation Standard, representing complete autonomy at all times.