Cruise LLC, the autonomous-car startup majority owned by General Motors, plans to show its first vehicle designed to operate without a driver on Tuesday, people familiar with the matter said.
The vehicle Cruise has been developing along with GM is a purpose-built electric, autonomous model designed to be more spacious and passenger-friendly than a conventional, human-driven car. It lacks traditional controls like pedals and a steering wheel, freeing up room for commuters who will share rides, said the people, who asked not to be named ahead of the vehicle’s unveiling at an event in San Francisco.
Cruise will be making a case that transportation causes many problems that its planned services can fix. In a blog post in December titled “We Need to Move Beyond the Car,” Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said that it’s time vehicles moved from individual ownership to an autonomous sharing model that reduces the emissions, accidents and congestion caused by today’s cars.
Ray Wert, a Cruise spokesman, declined to give details about the vehicle that will be shown except to say, “it is definitely not a car.”
In his blog, Ammann wrote: “Imagine if someone invented a new transportation system and said, ‘I’ve designed a new way of getting around: It’s powered by fossil fuels that will pollute our air. It will congest our cities to the point of inciting rage in its users. Its human operators will be fallible, killing 40,000 Americans -- and more than a million people around the world -- every year.’” He ended the screed with, “You’d say, ‘You’re crazy.’”
Cruise has for years been testing modified Chevrolet Bolt compact electric cars with test drivers at the wheel. The vehicle being shown Tuesday likely will be used when GM and Cruise start operating the ride-sharing service they postponed last year.
Ammann said in July the company wanted to make sure the technology was completely safe and to prepare the public and government for driverless vehicles. He said Cruise had a “clear line of sight” to getting all of the regulatory approvals that would be needed.
Cruise has a permit from California to test its autonomous vehicles on public roads. Its executives have been talking with state officials about creating rules that will allow the company to charge for rides in self-driving cars.
Cruise has raised $7.25 billion from investors including Honda Motor Co., Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund and T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. Those investments have given Cruise a value of $19 billion, GM has said.