SAN FRANCISCO — What would transportation look like without the Model T?
Cruise CEO Dan Ammann and his team pondered that question, and they envisioned a service that would get consumers around in a convenient, inexpensive and climate-friendly way.
The result: "It's self-driven. It's all-electric. It's shared. And it's our answer to the question about what transportation system you'd build if you could start from scratch," said Ammann, former president of General Motors.
Cruise, GM's self-driving unit, last week announced plans for a ride-hailing service and the Cruise Origin, a self-driving, electric shuttle that could help the company leapfrog Uber and Lyft.
Those ride-hailing giants have consistently lost money, but once they master the puzzle of a network of self-driving vehicles without backup drivers, they say they'll be moneymakers. With GM as an owner and Honda as a major investor, Cruise could become a legitimate rival to Uber and Lyft in the race to commercialize AV ride-hailing.
Still, each of the self-driving experimenters faces the same challenge: no federal regulatory framework. There's industrywide consensus that widespread AV use is further away than forecasters once thought because of the lack of regulation, along with technology and cost hurdles.
Cruise's initial offering against Uber and Lyft would be its third-generation autonomous car.
The Origin is distinct from the four generations of battery-electric vehicles Cruise built on the Chevrolet Bolt architecture. Those models look like a traditional car, although the fourth generation is missing manual controls, such as pedals and a steering wheel.