General Motors’ (GM) self-driving unit, Cruise, is preparing to relaunch its robotaxi services, aiming to rebuild trust and demonstrate performance, after California authorities prohibited Cruise’s self-driving vehicles from public roads following a collision in October.
Last week, Cruise temporarily halted all supervised and manual car trips in the US, coupled with an expanded safety review of its robotaxis. There was also a shake-up within the company, leading to CEO, Kyle Vogt, and Chief Product Officer, Daniel Kan, resigning.
Though facing setbacks in a sector reliant on public trust and regulatory cooperation, Cruise had earlier outlined plans to expand its fully autonomous taxi rides to multiple cities. It stated in a recent announcement, “once we have taken steps to improve our safety culture and rebuild trust, our strategy is to re-launch in one city and prove our performance there, before expanding.”
The GM unit plans to prioritize the Bolt-based Cruise autonomous vehicles (AV) in the short term, with a broader strategy centred around the Origin, which is a multi-passenger vehicle designed without traditional controls for human operation.
As part of its restructuring efforts, Cruise disclosed plans to reduce some jobs, primarily in non-engineering roles, with more details expected to be provided in mid-December. GM CEO Mary Barra had earlier envisioned Cruise and its autonomous vehicle technology generating $50 billion in revenue by 2030.
According to Reuter’s, GM’s financial chief, Paul Jacobson, is expected to address the impact on the automaker during a call with analysts scheduled for 29th November 2023. The company reported a loss of over $700 million at Cruise in the third quarter, which totals over $8 billion since 2016.
Investors are closely monitoring GM’s challenges, with Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas noting, that they “will be watching closely to evaluate whether management sees GM’s challenges as limited to Cruise or if there is broader discussion about capital allocation across GM’s portfolio.”
Cruise did not disclose the city for the relaunch, but it is unlikely to be San Francisco, where Cruise’s recent collision incident occurred. The accident involved another vehicle and resulted in one of Cruise’s self-driving taxis dragging a pedestrian, leading to the company’s licence to operate driverless rides in California being suspended.
Cruise currently operates in Phoenix and Austin, where regulations have been more favourable. The company’s rival, Waymo, also has extensive operations in these cities. As Cruise charts its path forward, regulatory approval will play a crucial role in its ability to deploy its autonomous vehicles on public roads.