Cruise to start supervised Robotaxi tests in Phoenix, AZ

Credit: Cruise

General Motors (GM) self-driving unit Cruise has announced that it would start testing its autonomous vehicles on public roads in Phoenix, Arizona, as part of its efforts to get back into the driverless robotaxi business. This time around, however, Cruise’s robotaxis will be supervised.  

As noted by the self-driving unit, it has been mapping and collecting road information in Phoenix for the past several weeks. Cruise would now validate its autonomous vehicles’ end-to-end behaviors against the company’s safety and performance requirements. And during this phase, the Cruise robotaxis will be supervised by a safety driver. 

Cruise explains the benefit of a safety driver for its robotaxi unit in a blog post. The self-driving unit also noted that while its supervised autonomous driving operations will launch in Phoenix, they are expected to gradually expand to Scottsdale, Paradise Valley, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert, and Chandler. 

“Supervised autonomous driving is a critical validation phase prior to driverless deployment and builds on our extensive work in simulation, closed-course driving, and more than 5 million driverless miles previously driven by our fleet to ensure safe performance on real-world roads and driving scenarios. Safety drivers play an important role in testing the AV’s performance and the continuous improvement of our technology,” Cruise noted in its blog post. 

While Cruise was heavily considered one of the leaders in the self-driving robotaxi sphere, second only to Google’s Waymo, the company’s operations hit a notable roadblock last year after one of its autonomous cars was involved in a pedestrian accident in San Francisco last October. During the incident, a woman who was initially struck by a human-driven car was thrown into the path of a Cruise robotaxi. 

The autonomous car ended up hitting the woman before dragging her about 20 feet as it pulled over. The pedestrian was reported to have suffered serious injuries. The incident became one of the key reasons behind Cruise getting its license to operate an autonomous robotaxi fleet in California suspended.

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Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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