Some General Motors Co.’s Cruise Automation employees are now being shuttled around San Francisco in self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EVs that they hail with a new GM smartphone app.
The launch of the app and testing it with employees is a milestone in GM’s plan to roll out self-driving cars first through a ride-sharing application. Cruise Automation CEO and founder Kyle Vogt was quoted in various media on Tuesday indicating GM may be looking to launch its own ride-sharing service and fleet.
In 2016, GM invested $500 million into and purchased a 9 percent ownership stake in Lyft Inc. and the two have been partnering to develop a fleet of self-driving Bolt EVs that could be tested publicly and used for ride-sharing purposes.
“We’re open to partnering with one network or partner, many partners or even no partners if that’s the best way to release this technology and achieve the societal benefits of driverless cars sooner,” Vogt told TechCrunch.
The Detroit automaker launched the Cruise Anywhere app about three weeks ago and indicated it is working to develop the product for commercial use. About 10 percent of the self-driving vehicle software company’s more than 200 employees are using the beta test ride-share service, available seven days a week.
GM bought start-up tech company Cruise last year.
A Cruise Automation spokesman said more employees are being added weekly and there is a wait list for more employees to join the test. Cruise currently has 63 self-driving Bolt EVs in its San Francisco fleet.
GM says it launched the app and test “as we work to ensure the best user experience possible for the eventual consumer.”
GM and Cruise said some of its employees are now using the service as their primary means of transportation. Software engineer Eric Lujan has used the app for a few weeks and has already taken more than 60 rides including to get to and from work, to run errands and to meet friends.
Cruise Automation says the service is limited to a mapped area for the self-driving vehicles. A safety driver remains behind the wheel who will take over vehicle control in case of emergency.
GM earlier this year said it planned to significantly boost the number of self-driving Bolts in testing to “hundreds of test vehicles” by the end of the year. In June, GM announced it had built 130 self-driving Bolts and they would join more than 50 already in testing. The company currently is testing self-driving Bolt EVs in San Francisco, Scottsdale, Arizona, and in Metro Detroit.