Meet Cruise, the self-driving ride-sharing service
Cruise, a California-based automobile company, has released a unique 'self-driving' ride-sharing service to passengers in San Francisco and some parts of Austin and Phoenix, US. These driverless, fully electric cars do not require the input of a human driver and have recently received permission to operate 24/7 across the city, barring freeways.
Cruise is a subsidiary of General Motors, the multinational automotive manufacturing company, and is operated by Waymo, the company previously known as Google Self-Driving Car Project. According to a report by AFP, Cruise's driverless ride-sharing service has made San Francisco the first major city with two fleets of fully operating driverless vehicles.
According to Cruise's official website, their first fully driverless vehicle with a million-mile lifespan, called the Cruise Origin, is an all-electric, self-driven car. The company has used simulation frameworks to test and develop the self-driving technology, and has used years of data accumulated from on-road testing.
The vehicles use a 'Sensor Placement Tool' to accurately calculate the placement of the car, alongside camera, radar, and LiDar (light detection and ranging) sensors to examine the surroundings. To ensure safety, the Cruise self-driving cars consist of 360-degree vision to keep track of all sides when driving. The company also claims to have conducted over 250,000 tests to make sure each vehicle is equipped to drive on the road.
A local passenger's experience
A recent report by AFP details a passengers' experience with Cruise, a San Francisco resident named Isaac. Isaac explains that despite initially being dubious of the experience, the overall experience was "awesome".
The car, named Percussion, reportedly avoided the direct route during the ride, which resulted in a five-minute trip turning twenty minutes long.
Isaac adds that the way the steering wheel turned was "ghostly", but the autonomous car was otherwise decent at driving, being able to brake when needed and not accelerating when not needed. The self-driving car also talked with Isaac - answering about a dozen of his questions.
At the end of the ride, Percussion ended up parking quite far from the destination, but Isaac explains that that was probably because there was ongoing construction on the road - something the autonomous car took note of.
How are they on the road?
According to Katherine Allen, a Waymo tester, the autonomous cars from Cruise are especially cautious when driving - which, while a good thing, can be "really annoying to other drivers".
The AFP report details that this tester also experimented with the 'emergency pull-over button' - a feature in Cruise's self-driving cars. According to her, the vehicle was able to veer safely to the side and pulled over, as intended.
As for how they are on the road, the vehicles had a large number of cases where they have been stopped by traffic police. As per AFP, two collisions, including one with a fire truck, happened as recently as last week. As such, authorities in San Francisco are forcing Cruise to halve the number of their driverless fleets, lowering to 50 cars being active at a time during the day.
As for their popularity, Waymo has stated that over 100,000 people have joined the waiting list for this unique ride-sharing app. The company plans to expand their services to other parts of the US.