GM’s Cruise Isn’t Short On Bluster

GM’s Cruise Isn’t Short On Bluster
Photo: Cruise

GM’s autonomous unit Cruise unveiled its vehicle last week, a supposedly autonomous van-like, steering-wheel-less, fully-electric thing, which Cruise said then would be as big of an innovation as the compass, trains, light bulbs, the radio, the internet, or cell phones. This week, Cruise is dialling the bluster back a little bit, saying that it’ll only be the next Model T.

Cruise’s vehicle, called the Origin, isn’t even here yet, though Automotive News reported today it could start production at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in 2022. Cruise says it will debut from the get-go as full autonomy, full electric, a ride that you hail with an app like Lyft or Uber but one with no driver.

Automotive News also got a few more details about the Origin after speaking with Cruise’s CEO Dan Ammann.

Cruise has focused on optimising cost by taking out parts and technology unnecessary for a driverless, point-to-point commuting system. The Origin can reach highway speed, but “it doesn’t need to have 150 mph top speed or a 0 to 60 time in three seconds,” Ammann said. “We put the money in where it matters for the customer, and we take it out where it doesn’t.”

Producing the Origin costs half as much as building a high-end electric SUV, such as the Tesla Model X, Cruise officials said.

Ammann did not disclose what consumers would pay for the Cruise ride-hailing service, but he said the price point would entice consumers to use Cruise over the options they have today.

“We all know that ride-share today is several dollars a mile. The personal-car ownership is a dollar a mile, depending on where you live. Our goal is to deliver something that can beat all of that,” he said.

I actually think a lot of these choices are smart, and I think there is a big market out there for robotaxis if they’re done safely and relatively cheaply. But those are huge ifs, with plenty of regulatory hurdles to cross, and it doesn’t help that there’s no reason to believe in the 2022 timeline. The company said in 2017 that it would launch Level 4 autonomous vehicles in 2019, but that deadline came and went.

In the meantime, perhaps they should tone down the Tesla-esque boasting.

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.

Your car will probably be driven by remote humans before they’re actually driving themselves with computers, but I am enjoying Cruise’s bombast thus far. That’s because while Cruise’s idea of how transportation looks in the future certainly would be game-changing, neither it nor any other company in the business has shown that it is in any way close to making these claims reality.