General Motors has created its own ride-hailing platform and quietly built one of the largest charging stations in the U.S. to get its Cruise self-driving car unit ready to enter the robotaxi business next year.
Cruise has installed 18 fast chargers in a parking facility near San Francisco's Embarcadero, the well-trafficked boulevard along the city's eastern shoreline where Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. have busy drivers. And 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.
The largest U.S. automaker has long planned to start a ride-hailing business using self-driving cars by 2019, but it hasn't said where the service would start or whether it will work with a partner. These latest moves show that the Golden Gate City is where GM is assembling the pieces to launch its own rival to Waymo next year if GM company decides against working with an established livery app like Uber's or Lyft's.
"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 only 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.