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GM's Self-Driving Unit Cruise is Planning to Build One of the Largest EV Charging Stations in North America

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【Summary】Cruise LLC, the autonomous driving developer that's majority owned by General Motors, has filed a project application with the city of San Francisco to build what its calls one of the “largest electric vehicle charging stations in North America”, the company wrote in a blog post on Friday.

Eric Walz    Feb 22, 2021 9:30 AM PT
GM's Self-Driving Unit Cruise is Planning to Build One of the Largest EV Charging Stations in North America
A Cruise self-driving vehicle in San Francisco. (Photo: Cruise)

Cruise LLC, the autonomous driving developer that's majority owned by General Motors, has filed a project application with the city of San Francisco to build what its calls one of the "largest electric vehicle charging stations in North America" to charge its growing fleet of self-driving vehicles, the company wrote in a blog post on Friday. 

The EV charging station will be built at a site in San Francisco's Central Waterfront District located on the east side of the city south of the downtown core. Cruise plans to complete the work by 2022 at the latest, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. 

Cruise plans to start with 50 outdoor autonomous-vehicle charging stations, a number that eventually could more than double, according to the report.

"Today, I am glad to share with you that Cruise filed a project application to build one of the largest electric vehicle charging stations in North America to help power an all-electric, shared, zero-emissions future," wrote Robert Grant, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Social Impact at Cruise.

Cruise said its decision to construct one of the country's largest EV charging stations is the next step towards building a reliable, sustainable transportation alternative for residents of San Francisco.

However, in order for Cruise's fleet to grow at the rate needed to help fight climate change, the company said it must address the shortage of EV charging infrastructure in the near term, especially in its home city of San Francisco.

A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) showed that nearly 90% of U.S. cities have less than half the necessary EV charging infrastructure to deploy electric vehicles at scale. 

"We are committed to building a service that can be part of a long-term climate change solution, and we believe that our zero-emission, self-driving vehicles can play a significant role. We believe that by making zero-emission rides available and affordable for everyone we can help San Francisco, California, and our country meet their ambitious climate goals," Grant wrote in the blog post. 

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Cruise will install electric charging stations at its fleet maintenance site in San Francisco.

Cruise is planning to launch a commercial robotaxi service in San Francisco using a fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolt EVs outfitted by Cruise with the hardware and software for autonomous driving. 

Eventually Cruise plans to deploy its new Origin shuttle, a futuristic autonomous multi-passenger vehicle developed in a partnership with GM and Japan's Honda Motor Co. The Origin shuttle was unveiled in Jan 2020.

The Origin EV will be the first production vehicle purposefully built by a global automaker without a steering wheel or brake pedals or any other human controls. It's designed for commercial use and can be outfitted to carry passengers or cargo.

Reducing and reversing the impacts of climate change is the reason that Cruise has chosen to operate only electric vehicles (EV) on its transportation network. Cruise says its AVs are the only self-driving fleet in the world powered by 100 percent renewable energy. 

In 2016, GM invested roughly $1 billion for a majority stake in Cruise when the company was a relatively unknown San Francisco startup working on autonomous driving. The investment in Cruise was  a way for GM to jumpstart its own work on self-driving technology.

Now after nearly five years and 2 million miles of testing on public roads in San Francisco, Cruise said it's technology has advanced enough that it's ready to remove the safety drivers from behind the wheel of its fleet of test vehicles. 

Removing safety drivers from its fleet is an important first step for Cruise as it continues to refine its software for a commercial launch of its robotaxi service. However the service will require enough EV charging infrastructure to support the entire Cruise fleet in San Francisco.

Last month, Cruise announced it will leverage Microsoft's Azure cloud and edge computing platform for the commercialization of its autonomous ride-sharing service. Microsoft is joining GM, Honda and other institutional investors in a combined equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise to build the cloud computing platform.

"Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles," said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann last month.

Last week, Cruise issued its "Clean Mile Challenge" to industry peers. The initiative calls on autonomous vehicles (AV) companies to commit to deploying only clean energy vehicles. In order to achieve this goal, Cruise says it needs urgent action, investment, and support to build EV charging infrastructure the company requires to meet its environmental goals.

Cruise said its plans to work side-by-side with the community, merchants, and the city of San Francisco to make the EV charging project an inclusive and shared enterprise. A portion of the Ev charging infrastructure will be open to the public.

The company set up an email address at community@getcruise.com where members of the community can reach out and provide feedback or get their questions answered about the project.

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