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Cruise's Robotaxis in Houston: San Francisco Raises Concerns
17/10/2023

The world of autonomous vehicles is undeniably moving two steps forward and one step back, with temporary setbacks punctuating the journey. Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, has recently launched its robotaxi service in Houston, marking a significant leap in the autonomous vehicle industry. However, this progress is juxtaposed with scrutiny and criticism surrounding Cruise's operations in San Francisco.

Cruise's Houston Debut

Cruise announced that it will be operating its self-driving robotaxis in Houston seven days a week from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., covering an area of about 11 square miles. This service includes neighborhoods like Downtown, Midtown, East Downtown, Montrose, Hyde Park, and River Oaks. The move to Houston follows Cruise's expansion into Texas late last year, starting with testing self-driving Chevrolet Bolts in Austin and subsequently introducing its purpose-built Origin vehicles.

In May, Cruise began testing its robotaxis with a human safety driver behind the wheel in Houston and Dallas. However, the company recently transitioned to "driverless testing," which means that there is no longer a human safety operator behind the wheel. In August, Cruise offered driverless rides to its employees and a select group of friends and family.

The company has already logged approximately 1 million miles on Texas roads and now offers customers the ability to order a driverless robotaxi through the Cruise app. To attract users, Cruise is currently offering a special promotion: $5 flat fares for all trips for a limited time.

San Francisco Challenges

While Cruise's expansion in Houston is a significant development, the company is facing challenges in its home city of San Francisco. Some city officials and citizens have expressed concerns about the readiness of Cruise's robotaxis for commercial operation following a series of incidents involving the vehicles.

One incident that raised concerns was a collision between one of Cruise's robotaxis and a fire truck. This occurred shortly after Cruise received the necessary permits to operate its vehicles commercially around the clock in San Francisco. In response, the California Department of Motor Vehicles requested that Cruise reduce its operations in the city by 50%. They called for no more than 50 driverless vehicles to operate during the day and 150 during the night until an investigation into the incidents is completed.

Another incident took place in early October, in which a pedestrian was hit by a human-driven vehicle and ended up under one of Cruise's robotaxis. While a video of the incident suggests the human-driven vehicle initially struck the pedestrian, the situation has raised further concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles.

Cruise is now navigating a delicate balance between expansion and addressing the safety concerns in San Francisco, while also pushing the boundaries of autonomous technology in Houston and beyond. The road ahead for self-driving vehicles, it seems, is both exciting and filled with challenges that need to be carefully addressed to ensure their widespread adoption.

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