GM’s Cruise automation will miss its goal of launching a large-scale self-driving taxi service in 2019, CEO Dan Ammann said in an interview Tuesday. The company plans to increase the number of its autonomous test vehicles on the road in San Francisco, but will not be offering rides to regular people this year. The company previously has pointed out its desire to launch a driverless taxi at the start of this year. But it seems like we have to wait a bit longer as the company has postponed the launch.
Ammann, GM’s former president who now leads its autonomous vehicle unit in San Francisco, wouldn’t even commit to launching the service next year, in 2020. The company is facing hurdles both technological and regulatory, recent reports characterize the company’s vehicles as slow with erratic maneuvers.
According to a report by Reuters, the company has experienced some difficulty identifying whether objects in the road are in motion last year. Ammann called both reports “out-of-date, out-of-context, incomplete, and in some cases, flat-out wrong. The company is still waiting for the federal government to accept or reject its request to deploy a fleet of fully driverless Chevy Bolt vehicles without steering wheels or pedals.
The request was in pipeline until this past March, when the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it would solicit public comments and conduct a review. The process concluded in May and now Cruise is waiting for the final verdict. This is not the first set back for the cruise. Back in 2016, the autonomous vehicle company purchased by GM for $1 billion.
Two years ago, the company claimed that it would be the first AV company to test its vehicles in New York City, but those plans fizzled out after the company failed to gain regulatory approval from the state government. When it anticipated that the company would launch in 2019, GM was under enormous pressure to keep up with its rivals, including Ford and Alphabet’s Waymo.
Waymo showcased its first trial of the driveless car on a closed course in Central California Infront of some media outlets. And Ford was outlining plans to ramp up its own testing through its startup, Argo AI. But in March 2018, a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Waymo is still testing its fully driverless vehicles without safety drivers on public roads, but not as part of its commercial ride-hailing service. By postponing the launch won’t hurt the bottom line of GM’s cruise.
Because the company has plenty of runway after raising $7.25 billion over the last year from SoftBank Vision Fund, T. Rowe Price, Honda, and others. In October, cruise said they would team up with Honda to design a self-driving car without traditional controls, that would be an addition to steering less Chevy Bolt.