What Is Ride-Hailing Service Cruise and Where Can You Use It?Reading Time: 4 minutes
Need a lift? Here’s what you need to know about getting around town with Cruise.
You may not be getting around in a flying car like the Jetsons yet, but you can hop in a car that drives itself; something that seemed only for science fiction until recently.
Today, several ride-hailing companies have emerged and are already offering services to the public. One of those companies is Cruise, and it is pushing itself to the forefront of driverless transportation. Here’s what you need to know about Cruise and its self-driving car service.
What Is Cruise?
Cruise is an autonomous ride-hailing service based in San Francisco, California. The company was established in 2013 by co-founders Kyle Vogt and Dan Kan, who still lead the company today.
Unlike its ride-sharing counterparts Uber and Lyft, Cruise cars do not have a person in the driver’s seat. According to Cruise’s LinkedIn page, its mission is to build ‘the world’s most advanced self-driving vehicles to safely connect people with the places, things, and experiences they care about.’
Cruise’s Partnership With General Motors and Honda
You probably recognize the names General Motors (GM) and Honda. The automotive giants are responsible for creating many of the iconic conventional cars you see on the road today. Together with Cruise, GM and Honda are turning their attention toward the future of transportation beyond human-driven cars.
According to GM, the automaker acquired Cruise in 2016, with Honda joining in 2018 to help fund and develop a purpose-built autonomous vehicle. GM and Honda have already invested several billions of dollars into Cruise’s operation. In return, this partnership has enabled Cruise to scale its manufacturing capabilities and build on nearly a century of car-making expertise.
The first examples of Cruise’s autonomous vehicles are based on modified Chevy Bolts. While the vehicle looks like a normal Bolt, it is retrofitted with various technologies such as LiDAR, radar, and cameras to enable driverless operation. See our breakdown of how self-driving cars know where they are and what LiDAR is for more info.
How Does Cruise Work?
It may surprise you to learn that using a car without a driver is relatively easy; at least for a rider. Creating a car that can drive itself is a whole other story. As a rider, the experience of hailing an autonomous vehicle is similar to that of using Uber or Lyft.
According to Cruise’s Rides page, riders must first sign up to join the company’s waitlist so that it can send an invitation code to activate the app. The robotaxi company says it is an invite-only service for now until more cars become available. Upon downloading the app, riders are asked to create an account or sign in to their existing account.
After adding in payment information, riders are prompted to add their destination. Riders then wait at their pickup location until the driverless car arrives. Depending on location, the vehicle may need to find an alternative pickup point nearby, and will then send directions for where to meet. A rider’s phone is then used to unlock the car and then the ride can begin.
Where Can You Use Cruise?
So, you know a little bit about Cruise and how to use it, but where can you use it? Unfortunately, the service area to use Cruise is limited to select locations in the United States.
According to CBS News, Cruise currently operates in the northwest third of San Francisco, California. The city’s dense and complex urban layout serves as an ideal proving ground for driverless cars to learn how to operate.
Initially, service was free and limited to nighttime hours for public users. As of June of this year, the company started charging customers for self-driving car rides. CEO Kyle Vogt recently tweeted that Cruise began offering daytime driverless rides in San Francisco and will launch to the public soon.
Vogt also announced via Twitter the ride-hailing service would be expanding to Austin, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona sometime this year, but has not included details about the specific areas in those cities the service will be available.
Is Cruise Safe to Use?
There are several elements to consider for assessing the safety of using Cruise. The first is the vehicle itself. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Chevy Bolt has received a five-star overall safety rating for every model year since 2018. The standard Bolt features several automated vehicle safety technologies, including automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, and lane-keeping warning.
Second, the autonomous technology used to operate Cruise’s self-driving cars goes beyond the Chevy Bolt’s standard safety features. Cruise says each car has a 360-degree field-of-view at all times and can calculate its current and future path of itself and others 10 times per second. Also, Cruise’s safety systems are designed with end-to-end redundancy that allows each vehicle to detect system faults and safely come to a stop in an instant.
Finally, consider yourself. As a rider, you may be the only human in the car, but there are still things you can do to ensure your ride is a safe one. We compiled a list of strategies to keep you safe using a ride-sharing service, which can also be useful for an autonomous service like Cruise. For example, an easy tip is to wear your seatbelt at all times.
Cruise boasts that it completes nearly 250,000 simulations before releasing a product update. That’s great. But, as of 2021, the NHTSA states it began requiring manufacturers and operators of automated driving systems to report crashes to the agency. External monitoring will continue to evolve to ensure rider safety is being ensured and protected.
What Does the Future of Cruise Look Like?
While Cruise works to expand to new cities across the United States, it is already working on its next generation of vehicles. In 2020, Cruise unveiled its first purpose-built autonomous vehicle called the Origin. Although not much bigger than a traditional car, the Cruise Origin strips away all the traditional components of a car such as the steering wheel and dashboard.
According to the self-driving carmaker, the Origin was designed to maximize space for passengers, and make accessibility universal for all passengers with its low entry point. According to The Detroit Bureau, the Cruise Origin will hit the streets in January 2023.
In 2021, Cruise announced that it had signed an agreement with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority to be an exclusive provider of self-driving taxis and ride-hailing services beginning in 2023 through 2029 (per CNBC).
Beyond that, the company is working to drive the cost per mile down to under $2 through manufacturing improvements and a million-mile vehicle lifetime (per Forbes).
Cruise Is Making Transportation Better
Transportation equity has been an ongoing problem for cities across the world. Even the best public transportation systems have their limitations. Cruise is working to close the last-mile gap (the distance between public transit to destination) by offering affordable, accessible, and safe transportation for all.
If you are still not convinced that Cruise is an attractive transportation alternative, consider the next time you get into a ride-sharing vehicle and feel obligated to ask, ‘so, how long have you been doing this?’