Automotive > Autonomous Vehicles Blog

COVID-19 Puts Kibosh on Cruise

by Roger Lanctot | Oct 23, 2020

Within months of its post-CES announcement of the Cruise Automation Origin robotaxi, General Motors found itself face to face with an operational design domain no longer aligned with consumer preferences. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly rendered shared autonomous vehicle rides a non-starter for consumers.

Not to be undone by the coronavirus, GM announced this week that it plans to install partitions in its Origin vehicles as part of a portfolio of safety measures to restore the attractiveness of this driverless conveyance. The partition will run the length of the vehicle creating two two-person compartments with passengers in each facing one another.

GM says that they will limit individual Origin use to two passengers at a time, presumably on opposite sides of the partition. It’s not clear, with no safety driver, how such a policy might be enforced. Also unclear is how the vehicles will be cleaned between rides.

The idea is bold and well intentioned but it is even more pointless than the Origin itself. There is no question that human driven vehicles will be less expensive and more attractive to consumers - and city leaders will be loathe to find driverless, passenger-less vehicles wandering around the city seeking their next fares.

The good news is that GM had the presence of mind to recognize that the COVID-19 crisis is not likely to be resolved before GM can start putting Origin robotaxis on the streets of San Francisco a year or two from now. GM is preparing the production line and has applied for approval for vehicles capable of operating with no steering wheel, pedals, or safety driver.

The reality is that Origin is likely to be operating with no steering wheel, no pedals, no safety driver, and no passengers. No thanks.

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