Self-driving is hard, as any San Francisco resident who’s shared the road with one of General Motors’ Cruise robotaxis will tell you. Cruise is undeterred, however, and intends to continue rolling out its limited service to more cities around the U.S. in 2023.
Austin and Phoenix are first, Reuters reported Wednesday, but the company doesn’t expect to stop there next year. It’s not yet saying which cities are in those plans, but reading between the lines it seems Cruise must expand somehow for its own financial wellbeing — even if the service is operating far from flawlessly these days. In the words of Chief Operating Officer Gil West, by way of Reuters:
“You’ll likely see us expand the number of markets in a large number next year,” he said. Cruise believes it can accelerate application of its technology to other cities using a “repeatable playbook” developed in San Francisco, Austin and Phoenix. That should start to deliver revenue numbers with more zeros in them, he said.
2023 is also the year Cruise hopes to have its purpose-built Origin self-driving EV on the ground, replacing the current modified Chevrolet Bolts. Cruise sees potential in providing Origins to businesses like Walmart for automated delivery. Back in April, the retail giant began a pilot program with Cruise at eight Arizona-market stores.
This all despite concerns within Cruise, held by its own employees, that its vehicles aren’t yet ready for public consumption. “There is fear of admitting this because of expectations from leadership and investors,” one such anonymous whistleblower admitted in a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission dated May 19.
At a time when peers like Ford and Volkswagen have walked back their confidence and investment in self-driving services, GM’s determination to push even harder is a little surprising. As Argo’s ex-CEO once put it back in 2017, “those who think fully self-driving vehicles will be ubiquitous on city streets months from now or even in a few years are not well connected to the state of the art or committed to the safe deployment of the technology.”