General Motors is starting to feel more comfortable showing off its secretive self-driving technology. Last month, Cruise Automation, the 109-year-old carmaker’s autonomous driving subsidiary, released dash camera footage of a recent test of its self-driving car on the streets of San Francisco. Today, Cruise released another video that was very similar to the last except for one key addition: footage from inside the car.
In the video, an all-electric, self-driving Chevy Bolt, code-named “Albatross,” is seen driving for about 20 minutes through the Mission and Protreo neighborhoods in San Francisco. Like the first video, we don’t get to see any footage of the car itself. (There have been some spy shots circulating around.) But we do get to see whether the safety driver has his hands on the wheel thanks to an over-the-shoulder camera in the car. The answer? Not that much.
"This video was captured from one of our autonomous vehicles during a series of back to back test rides,” said Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise Automation, in a statement. “No advance planning was done, and this was captured in a single take. The operator selected a random destination using the Cruise mobile app, pushed a button, and the vehicle started moving. Rides like this occur hundreds of times per day across our test fleets."
Recently, GM disclosed that its fleet of self-driving cars drove a combined 9,776 miles in California in 2016. The cars disengaged, or dropped out of autonomous mode, 181 times, for a disengagement rate of 18.5 per 1,000 miles.
Unlike some of its competitors, GM has declined to offer more details on its self-driving plans. In late 2015, the company made a $500 million investment in Lyft with the expressed purpose of building a fleet of autonomous ride-hail vehicles. Meanwhile, Lyft’s founders have said it expects a majority of its trips to be in self-driving cars by 2021.
Vogt’s statement about using Cruise’s mobile app — which isn’t publicly available — is an interesting twist, especially as it relates to Lyft. When GM’s self-driving Chevy Bolts are ready for primetime, how will people experience this new technology? By hailing a ride through Lyft? Or will GM try to promote Cruise as an individual brand?
Update February 8th, 2:17pm ET: A spokesperson for GM explained that the Cruise app was “developed for employees to use on a test basis for obtaining an autonomous ride to and from work. We have been offering this to some of our employees for a couple of months now.”