Transportation

GM Eyes AV Testing in New York City

The company has applied to test self-driving vehicles in Manhattan.

by David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle / October 18, 2017

(TNS) -- After more than a year of circling San Francisco streets, Cruise Automation’s self-driving cars may be heading to New York City.

Cruise and its corporate parent, General Motors, said Tuesday that they have applied to test Cruise’s cars in crowded, traffic-intense Manhattan. Detailed 3-D mapping to help the cars navigate the streets has already begun in Lower Manhattan, although the companies did not say which specific neighborhoods were involved.

Cruise, based in San Francisco, plans to begin the tests early next year and will hire a team of employees there to conduct them. Although the cars will largely drive themselves, each will have at least two humans inside, including one in the driver’s seat — the same setup the company uses in San Francisco.

“Testing in New York will accelerate the timeline to deploying self-driving cars at scale,” said Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt, in a press release. “New York City is one of the most densely populated places in the world and provides new opportunities to expose our software to unusual situations, which means we can improve our software at a much faster rate.”

New York state began accepting applications in May for companies interested in testing autonomous vehicles there, angling for a foothold in the fast-growing field of self-driving research. Each vehicle must come with a $5 million insurance policy and have a licensed backup driver ready to take control. California, where many autonomous vehicle companies are based, has similar requirements.

“The spirit of innovation is what defines New York, and we are positioned on the forefront of this emerging industry that has the potential to be the next great technological advance that moves our economy and moves us forward,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, in a press release.

Cruise’s customized Chevy Bolts — outfitted with radar, cameras and laser-based sensors — have become frequent sights in San Francisco.

While some companies have been testing their autonomous cars in closed facilities, such as Concord’s GoMentum Station or the former Castle Air Force Base near Merced, Vogt has touted the importance of using urban environments, whose packed streets and heavy foot traffic provide challenging environments for the cars. Other cities hosting autonomous vehicle tests include Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Singapore.

“New York is the ultimate proving ground for autonomous vehicle technology,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said Tuesday, in a press release. “We have a streetscape that is unrivaled in its scale and complexity, and so it’s fitting that General Motors and Cruise Automation are finally bringing this technology here for testing and development.”

©2017 the San Francisco Chronicle Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.