Driverless cars are not really drivers, they just put artificial intelligence (AI) in the driver’s seat instead of a person. The development and training of this artificial intelligence is the core, on which based each program autonomous vehicle and GM Cruise, also known as Cruise Automation, is General Motor’s contribution to this crowded area.
GM Cruise has test cars on actual city streets in several states, including challenging urban environments like San Francisco, and plans for driverless vehicles that don’t even have traditional steering wheels or pedals.
In addition to delivering driverless technology to General Motors, GM Cruise is also committed to providing Honda with driverless technology.
Why is GM developing driverless cars, and who will use them?
The main reason GM is developing driverless cars is because this technology is seen as the way forward. Every major car manufacturer either has an in-house driverless car program, partnered with a third party, or bought some AI-focused company outright.
The reasons why driverless cars are parked are primarily safety related, because many fatal accidents can be attributed to simple human error. If a company like GM Cruise can build an artificially intelligent vehicle smart enough to avoid these pitfalls, this technology could potentially save more lives than an important automotive safety technology like seat belts .
From a driver’s perspective, the main benefit of an autonomous vehicle is convenience. Because these machines are capable of operating without human intervention, drivers can use their daily commute to perform useful tasks such as getting news or email, getting ready for work, or even eating breakfast without endangering anyone else on the road.
Likewise, driverless cars will open up a whole new world of autonomy for older drivers and people with disabilities or injuries that would otherwise make driving difficult or impossible. In some states, even children as young as 13 are allowed to ride unsupervised in an autonomous vehicle.
Automakers such as GM have also shown interest in using their driverless technologies in vehicles and shared spaces. GM Cruise Operates Driverless Sharing Network for San Francisco-based Employees and Competitors Waymo and Uber have shown that driverless cars can operate on a wider sharing network that is open to the public.
Ford, with their non-powered Argo AI vehicles, has also demonstrated how autonomous cars and trucks can be used to deliver deliveries to companies like Postmates and Walmart without the need for human drivers.
What is GM Cruise and where did it come from?
General Motors is no stranger to driverless cars, and the company had self-driving test vehicles as early as 2011. Established tech companies like Google and newcomers like Uber have outpaced GM in recent years, so they’ve decided to bring in some outside expertise.
GM Cruise was founded in 2013 as Cruise Automation and their early work was to develop and sell a self driving kit for the Audi A4 and Audi S4. Another early project involved converting the Nissan Leaf into a driverless car using autonomous vehicle technology.
General Motors acquired Cruise Automation in 2016 to support its car-free efforts. Now known as GM Cruise, the subsidiary has switched to adapting its technology to various GM platforms.
Honda has also invested in GM Cruise, paving the way for the same core driverless technology to be used in both GM and Honda vehicles.
How do GM Cruise vehicles work without a driver?
GM Cruise driverless vehicles use a variety of sensors, including radar, LIDAR and cameras, to provide information about the environment to specialized artificial intelligence. The AI then connects to various systems including the throttle, brakes and steering to fully control the vehicle.
Artificial intelligence is the key to the safe operation of a driverless car. AI learns with machine learning, to get a high level of knowledge in closed test courses, and then undergo additional testing and training on real city streets under the supervision of technical drivers.
The first driverless vehicle systems, including Cruise Automation’s original Audi conversion kit, were focused on highway driving. Competing systems like Tesla’s Autopilot also excel on the highway. As it turns out, AI driverless cars have a lot more trouble in challenging urban environments than on the open road.
This is one of the reasons why most of the GM Cruise testing took place in San Francisco, and also why the vehicle’s AI was subjected to additional testing and training in various driving situations in Michigan.
Basic driverless vehicles, including GM Cruise test vehicles, require human supervision and include standard controls. However, GM Cruise has plans for fully autonomous vehicles that will not include steering wheels, pedals or manual controls of any kind. Vehicles like these require massive amounts of test data and confidence in artificial intelligence.