General Motors’ self-driving startup, Cruise Automation, has trickled out dash cam videos of an autonomous Chevrolet Bolt milling around San Francisco since February. The video quality was poor and it wasn’t anything we hadn’t already seen from a self-driving car. Tesla went so far as to call tech startups like Cruise Automation and Otto “small teams of programmers with little more than demoware” and scolded Ford, GM, and Uber for investing billions of dollars into “unproven” projects.
However, Cruise’s most recent video seems to show that it has made some legitimate progress in the last three months. Set at night, the clip shows the self-driving Bolt navigating a dense urban environment while avoiding collisions with cyclists, pedestrians, and even a raccoon.
We have to take General Motors’ word for there being zero human intervention, since we never get a clear view of the steering wheel, but the company has assured us that is the case. We also noticed the Bolt never makes a single right turn on red, even when it seemed safe to do so, and reached out to GM to ask why.
The automaker explained that, while the test vehicle is capable of a red right-hander, the engineers had disabled the feature. When we asked why, our corporate contact said they couldn’t elaborate on the specifics of the technology but assured us that General Motors places safety as the overriding priority in the development process, meaning the company probably doesn’t want to take on the added risk until the system is further along. Understandable, given some of the bad publicity Uber’s test cars have received of late.
Hoping to surpass rival autonomous developments, GM is investing like mad in Cruise Automation. Last week, IEEE Spectrum broke the news General Motors was planning to expand its test fleet beyond 300 vehicles — which would make it one of the largest — and add 1,100 positions within the Californian startup.
At the moment, there are only about 50 self-driving Chevy Bolts undergoing development in Michigan, Arizona, California. GM is using its deep pockets to change that, and has placed itself nearer to the front of the pack in the race toward level 5 vehicular autonomy.
[Image: General Motors]