AUSTIN (KXAN) — In September, General Motors’ Cruise announced it would begin rolling out “robotaxi” technology in Austin. Now, Cruise officials said Austinites can expect to see the driverless vehicles out on city roads later this spring.
Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt made the announcement Tuesday during the 2023 South by Southwest Conference & Festivals. Vogt said the robotaxis — named Origin — will begin testing on Austin roads in the coming weeks before being open to customers in a “matter of months.”
Prashanthi Raman, Cruise’s vice president of global government affairs, told KXAN the company is excited to test the technology in the Texas capital.
“Austin has been an inviting community — it has been a hub of innovation,” she said. “And the regulatory framework here in Texas has really been business-friendly in a way that has invited Cruise with open arms, and we have been excited to be testing here.”
Raman said Cruise is testing in the Austin area during the evenings before building out its landscape in the city. She added her hope is that those who’ve not yet tried out autonomous vehicle technology will welcome it with curiosity and open arms.
“Every first-time experience is different, but I’ve taken a lot of first riders on their first ride. And what we see is a mix of skepticism and concern and excitement,” she said. “In those few minutes, they are completely whisked away by how the vehicle is navigating around the streets in very dynamic situations.”
The Origin robotaxis are shuttle-style vehicles that have no steering wheels or pedals. From a safety perspective, the vehicles are designed with a “sensor suite” in and around the car, featuring cameras and radars that give a real-time, 360° view of what’s happening in and around the vehicle.
This design gives the car the opportunity “to make sure that it’s making the right decisions in a very fast, efficient manner,” Raman said.
Inside, Origins are designed with a “campfire-style” seating. Raman added this allows for communal moments with other passengers but also lets people tend to phone calls, emails or any other work they’d like to do while being driven to and from their destinations.
“We know that time is a very precious commodity, especially these days, and its ability to be able to allow you to focus, take your eyes off the road, and to really enjoy what is in and around you and experiencing the communities around each and every city,” she said.