Cruise, the autonomous vehicle company backed by General Motors and Honda, will launch its first international robotaxi service in Dubai. The company will start testing its vehicles in the kingdom in 2023, with plans to launch a commercial ride-hailing service soon after — though it hasn’t specified an actual date. The news was announced early Monday by Dubai’s crown prince, Hamdan bin Mohammed.
As part of the ride-hailing service, Cruise will use its fully autonomous Origin vehicles, which it first unveiled in 2019. The company does not plan on utilizing its Chevy Bolt electric vehicles that it currently uses as part of its test fleet in San Francisco.
The Origin is designed to be a shared vehicle, and when it goes into production, it won’t have any controls typically associated with human driving, like a steering wheel or pedals. Cruise said the goal is to scale up to at least 4,000 vehicles in Dubai by the year 2030.
Cruise still intends for San Francisco to be its first market for its commercial robotaxi service. The company had planned to launch a commercial service in its hometown in 2019, but failed to do so and has yet to announce a new date.
The Cruise Origin will go into production at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant starting in 2022. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s negative effect on shared ride-hailing, Cruise recently unveiled a new set of safety protocols intended to keep people socially distant during trips and the vehicle sanitized between fares.
Cruise is among the best capitalized autonomous vehicle companies in the world. Over the last three years, the company has raised over $9.25 billion from a number of investors including SoftBank, Honda, GM, T. Rowe Price Group, and Microsoft. Cruise is currently valued at $30 billion.
Dubai may be a natural fit for Cruise’s fully autonomous vehicles. The kingdom has the goal of 20 percent of its trips taking place in autonomous vehicles by 2030. Dubai has also invited a number of urban air mobility companies, like Volocopter, to test their electric aircraft.
Correction: Clarified the Dubai launch plans and corrected the amount invested in Cruise to date. It’s $9.25 billion, not $7.4 billion as originally stated.