Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company owned by General Motors, announced that a winterized version of its self-driving vehicle model, the Origin, will be released in approximately two years. This adaptation of the Origin will be specifically built to handle cold weather conditions, making it suitable for cities that experience snow and ice.
Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt announced that in approximately two years, a winterized version of the Cruise Origin autonomous vehicle will be released. This adaptation will enable the vehicle to operate in cold weather conditions, expanding the company’s capabilities beyond the currently served Sun Belt region. Cruise is actively working on overcoming engineering challenges and plans to scale gradually, collecting data and familiarizing themselves with new environments before offering pilot services.
Expanding Beyond the Sun Belt Region
Currently, Cruise operates its robotaxi service in San Francisco, as well as a free service in Phoenix and Austin. However, like many other autonomous vehicle companies, Cruise has primarily focused its testing and operations in regions with optimal weather conditions, known as the Sun Belt region of the United States. This is because sunny weather provides the ideal environment for autonomous vehicles to perceive their surroundings.
Despite this limitation, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt revealed that as the company scales in the next couple of years, it plans to enter cities beyond the Sun Belt region, particularly those in the northern states. However, to operate effectively in areas with challenging winter weather, Cruise needs to develop vehicles capable of handling these conditions.
Overcoming Winter Weather Challenges
Vogt emphasized the importance of solving “fun engineering details” to ensure the performance of the winterized Origins. For example, the sensor pods, which house the cameras, radars, and lidars, will be equipped with heating elements to melt ice and snow that may accumulate on them.
Winterizing autonomous vehicles poses unique challenges for companies like Cruise. The development cycle in the automotive industry can take several years to ensure all components are reliable, supply chains are optimized, and manufacturing processes are efficient. However, Cruise has been actively working on overcoming these challenges for years, aiming to bring the winterized version of the Origins to market by 2025.
Gradual Expansion and Data Collection
Vogt mentioned that Cruise plans to begin “scouting” midwestern cities by next year, collecting data and familiarizing themselves with the new environments. However, the company does not intend to offer pilot services in these cities until 2024. Vogt explained that it would not be ideal to provide a service that operates only in good weather conditions, as it would inconvenience customers. Thus, Cruise aims to develop a vehicle that can operate reliably in various weather conditions.