Cruise Automation is actively seeking to recruit a lead engineer to head its development efforts of 3D maps with expertise in city environments, signaling the GM driverless unit's move towards a mobility-as-a-service business model.
Given what Cruise has revealed so far, the secretive startup is putting everything in place to launch a fleet for driverless ride-hailing services in cities, instead of readying production of GM-badged cars for private sales, Egil Juliussen, an analyst for IHS Automotive, told Driverless.
Cruise has already begun testings its Bolt EVs in city environments where its partner Lyft, a ride-sharing startup and Uber competitor, mainly operates. Additionally, Cruise seeks a lead engineer to head the implementation of the driverless fleet service. As the want ad specifies on LinkedIn and other websites, Cruise hopes to hire an engineer who "will eventually scale mapping to 100+ cities."
Since ride-hailing without a driver and mobility as a service will happen in the cities first, Cruise's recruitment makes a lot of sense. Cruise is obviously picking cities where to offer their mobility services. They want to train and test in the cities and are obviously almost invariably working with Lyft because of their investment in that startup. It all adds up.
Here is what General Motors and Cruise Automation have revealed so far about Cruise Automation, pointing up its city-centric driverless strategy:
- GM said earlier this year its Maven mobility unit was creating a Uber-rival car-sharing service call Maven Gig geared for freelance drivers in the gig economy
- GM said last week it had started to make 130 Chevrolet Bolt EV driverless test vehicles at its Orion Township, Mich. plant as it expands its fleet to total 180 models deployed in San Francisco; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Detroit. GM said then it is the first company to assemble self-driving test vehicles in a "mass-production facility" after it started making driverless Chevrolet Bolt EVs in January.
- Cruise said earlier this year it will staff up to more than 1,100 jobs over the next five years after announcing it planned to invest $14 million in a San Francisco-based R&D center. Cruise's level of staff will roughly be the same as GM's R&D headquarters in Warren, Mich.
- GM has said it plans to eventually launch a self-driving fleet of cars in cities but was not more specific about when and where and did not mention Cruise.
- Cruise's Chevrolet Bolt EVs certainly have the requisite hardware for city driverless applications. They are packed with LiDAR, cameras, sensors and other hardware GM says are "designed to accelerate development of a safe and reliable fully autonomous vehicle."
GM and Cruise, thus, have all but announced they will launch driverless ride-sharing services sometime in the not-so-disrtanrt future. Except for GM's 2018 Cadillac CT6 that will offer Level 2-like features, the US automotive giant has offered little proof it plans to offer Level 3 vehicles when they become legal to own and operate. Instead, GM and Cruise may have not come out and officially said it, but Cruise is aggressively laying the groundwork for Level 4 fleets that customers will hail like they do now for Uber ride-sharing services in cities.