Cruise Automation Claims First Production Self-Driving Car

Cruise Automation is calling its newest model the first production self-driving car, at least it will be once it gets the software sorted out.

“Today, we’re unveiling the world’s first mass-producible car designed to operate without a driver,” Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt said of the highly modified Chevy Bolt. “This isn’t just a concept design – it has airbags, crumple zones, and comfortable seats. It’s assembled in a high-volume assembly plant capable of producing 100,000’s of vehicles per year, and we’d like to keep that plant busy.”

That’s very big news for Cruise Automation, the autonomous car startup that was purchased by GM last year. The company’s third-generation Autonomous Chevrolet Bolt has all of the hardware and sensors that it needs for full autonomy. That is, once the software and regulations catch up and allow it. The cars were built on a regular General Motors assembly line using GM’s mass production processes.

What does production ready mean? In this case, Doug Park, GM VP for autonomous tech, says that it means changes to the design and dealing with suppliers to make the car ready to be built on the assembly line at GM’s Orion plant where the Bolt EV is built. It also means changes to the electrical system to allow for increased fault tolerance, redundant steering and braking systems as well as other sensors, and different safety systems.

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Bolt is Front and Center For GM’s Self-Drive Technologies

Vogt said that using mass-produced prototypes makes for a better testing experience. Hand-building autonomous systems on already built production cars results in chasing electrical gremlins and making repairs, not driving test miles.

“Hand-building a few hundred complex cars is tortuous and expensive, but it’s technically possible. People have done it. But things start to fall apart beyond that,” Vogt said.

Cruise’s Third-Gen Autonomous Bolt. New Components in Orange, Revised in Purple

“Achieving massive scale with a low defect rate and high reliability is ridiculously hard. Cars are big, heavy, and have tens of thousands of parts. So you really need a well-run assembly plant to build something that works, such as the billion dollar plant we’re using in Lake Orion,” Vogt said.

Just-in-time production has also sped development of the car. The current model is their third in only 14 months. Vogt said the company is able to observe a problem in the field and implement an in-plant fix the same day.

The current test cars still require a person behind the wheel. But once software and regulation catches up, Cruise says it is ready for the driverless car. Then sales to fleets and eventually consumers will follow.


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