Autonomous vehicles and mobility access
Cruise is an all-electric self-driving company founded in 2013 and majority owned by GM with the mission to connect people to places and experiences that they care about. They have driven over 4 million autonomous driving miles since starting and with the launch of the Public Ridership Program in June 2022 they have driven over 400,000 driverless miles with members of the public inside.
Unlike other autonomous driving companies though they have a special focus on the inaccessibility of transportation for underserved groups such as the disabled, special needs, and elderly populations. All this came about after the creation of the Cruise Origin which was developed in partnership with Honda and GM. It is about the size of a Chevy Tahoe, with no steering wheel, and no driver console, and has subway-style doors and seats six in a Campfire seating style which allows for community building. Cruise is now extending this vehicle and calling it “Origin for Mobility” which is all-electric with a million-mile battery and is a mobility variant for those who have fixed wheelchairs. This work includes understanding curb height, understanding where wheelchairs can anchor in, and building a different kind of vehicle to critically serve the needs of a community that has not had that option before.
It is hard to provide paratransit and public transit services in their current form for the first mile and last mile. Cruise is seeking to partner in a meaningful way with public agencies to provide that connectivity to mass transit, to understand where the gaps are in the routes, and to provide different times of day transportation, etc. Perhaps where autonomous vehicles can fit in the transportation ecosystem is by providing accessibility to those that don’t.