Cruise, General Motors’ autonomous vehicle technology subsidiary, is back on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona testing its battery-powered Chevrolet Bolt EVs for robotaxi duty. But this time it’s different than before.

Last year, Cruise landed in hot water after its driverless taxis were caught on camera stuck in wet cement, tangled in caution tape, and caught in a traffic jam of their own making. But while these occurrences were mostly funny and harmless, things got significantly worse in October 2023 when a woman was critically injured after being hit by a human-driven vehicle and then run over by a Cruise robotaxi.

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Cruise is back, sort of

GM's Cruise robotaxi business is putting back its robotaxis on the streets of Phoenix, Arizona. However, this time around, there will be no passengers and the cars won't drive themselves. Instead, safety drivers will maneuver the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt EVs while they gather information about their surroundings.

After the San Francisco accident, Cruise was under scrutiny and eventually the company pulled all of its driverless Bolt EVs from the streets. An independent investigation found that the General Motors subsidiary kept details of the crash from investigators, regulators and the media. Cruise’s CEO stepped down and layoffs were underway but the company kept telling everyone that its cars would be back on the road one way or another, albeit on a smaller scale than before.

That’s exactly what happened. Cruise announced in a blog post on its official website that it is resuming operations in Phoenix but without passengers and with vehicles that are driven by humans. In other words, people won’t be able to hail rides and the cars won’t drive themselves.

Instead, Cruise is using the cars without their autonomous driving systems engaged to create maps and gather road information like speed limits, stop signs, traffic lights, lane paint and right turn only lanes. The company plans on expanding these operations to other cities in the United States, but it didn’t mention what those would be.

Gallery: GM Cruise Driverless Taxi

The next step will be to deploy the AVs on city streets and let them do the driving but a safety driver will still be sitting behind the wheel to take over if needed.

“Our goal is to earn trust and build partnerships with the communities such that, ultimately, we resume fully driverless operations in collaboration with a city,” Cruise said.

GM CEO Marry Barra once said that Cruise and its autonomous vehicle technology could generate up to $50 billion in revenue by the end of the decade. In reality, however, the American automaker lost over $8 billion with Cruise since 2016.

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