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GM Quietly Working On Launching its Robo Taxi Service in San Francisco

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【Summary】Since General Motors acquired San Francisco-based autonomous driving startup Cruise Automation in 2016 for $1 billion, the two companies have been laying the groundwork and testing autonomous technology for a commercial launch of a robo taxi service using an autonomous fleet of Chevy Bolt EVs. Now, more details of the project have been revealed.

Eric Walz    Jul 03, 2018 6:28 PM PT
GM Quietly Working On Launching its Robo Taxi Service in San Francisco
author: Eric Walz   

Since General Motors acquired San Francisco-based autonomous driving startup Cruise Automation in 2016 for $1 billion, the two companies have been laying the groundwork and testing autonomous technology for a commercial launch of a robo taxi service using an autonomous fleet of Chevy Bolt EVs. Now, more details of the project have been revealed.

Automotive News has reported that Cruise installed 18 fast EV chargers in a parking facility near San Francisco's Embarcadero, a bustling waterfront district popular with tourists that includes Fisherman's Wharf and the Ferry Building Marketplace. GM's self-driving car unit has been testing its own ‘Cruise Anywhere' ride-hailing app and fleet-management system, said people familiar with the matter.

GM is planning to start its own ride-hailing business using self-driving cars outfitted by Cruise in 2019, but the company has remained silent on when the robo taxi service would start or whether it will work with a partner. Now it appears that San Francisco will be the first launch city.

Ride-hailing giant Uber and its main rival Lyft are both headquartered in San Francisco and any service launched by GM will compete directly with both companies. Around 45,000 Uber and Lyft drivers are registered to operate in the city.

"It's an indication that Cruise is getting ready to commercialize autonomous ride-hailing services for the public and it will be in San Francisco," said Grayson Brulte, co-founder of autonomy consulting firm Brulte & Co. "I imagine they would want to own and operate the service."

A GM spokesman said to Automotive News that the automaker is still working toward commercializing its self-driving car service and that the company hasn't decided whether to own the business or find partners. He declined to comment on the location.

If the launch goes as planned, GM will be the first ride-hailing company to own the technology as well as the vehicles. In addition, its $1 billion investment in Cruise might make it the first automaker to deploy a fleet of self-driving cars on public streets.

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