Similar in appearance to a small bus, the six-passenger Cruise Origin has no steering wheel or pedals, and offers a large area where two rows of three passengers face each other. It also features air bags, “Start Ride” buttons, an “SOS” button, and an interior camera, as well as an expected lifespan of over 1 million miles.
“It’s not an improvement on the car,” says Cruise CEO Dan Ammann. “It’s completely different. It’s not a product you buy. It’s an experience.“
The Origin, says the company, is its first attempt at building a self-driving car entirely from the ground up – the result of reimagining transportation as if the traditional car had never existed.
“So, we removed the engine,” says Ammann. “We removed the driver – who, more often than not, is tired, distracted, frustrated, and rushed. We removed the equipment that’s there to support the driver, including the steering wheel, pedals, rearview mirrors, windshield wipers, and cramped seats.”
“When we got rid of all that human-driver stuff, we traded it for something precious: space,” says Ammann. “The Cruise Origin looks big. But in fact, it’s no bigger than your average car. It’s just more efficient, making full use of the space it takes up on the road.”
The vehicle’s boxy shape, while hardly futuristic looking, is an example of function over form. Not only does it provide ample passenger room, it allows the vehicle’s sensor pods to be placed high and on the ends to avoid damage while at the same time offering a better field of view. In addition, its modular design makes production, maintenance, and upgrades easier.
The vehicle’s doors slide open, and the entry is low to the ground and three times larger than that of an average car – wide enough to make room for one person to step in while another person steps out. Optimized for comfort and safety, the self-driving taxi will be owned and operated entirely by company – from the app to the Origin to customer service.
The Origin is powered by a new, all-electric platform built by General Motors. It features redundancy with no single points of failure across sensing, compute, networking, or power. Its multi-layered sensor suite, says the company, is designed to keep track of multiple people and objects – even if they’re far away, in pitch-black, or hidden by rain or fog.
In fact, says the company, it’s on track to “crack the superhuman threshold in urban environments,” and expects to be well past that threshold by the time the Cruise Origin enters production.
“Already, our self-driving cars handle urban driving – which is notoriously chaotic and unpredictable – exceptionally well,” says Ammann. “So well, in fact, that they would be able to drive across the entire country without incident, even if the country’s highways were the toughest San Francisco streets.”
The Origin is expected to be on the streets “soon,” says the company.
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