Cruise starts initial robotaxi testing in Miami

Cruise, the self-driving arm of General Motors, has begun initial testing and data collection in Miami, the company said in a tweet Wednesday.

“Phase 1 is to familiarize our fleet with additional, diverse road conditions while collecting data,” the company said.

Cruise declined to provide any further information, like what Phase 2 entails and when it will begin, how many Cruise vehicles are currently in Miami and when the company plans to start testing.

The news comes two months after Cruise expanded to Houston and Dallas, where the AV company has begun supervised testing and is on track to begin driverless ride-hail service for members of the public “soon,” according to a Cruise spokesperson. Supervised testing just means there’s a human safety driver in the car. Cruise will switch to driverless testing before opening up the service for riders.

Most of Cruise’s operations have been in its hometown of San Francisco, where it competes head-to-head with Alphabet’s Waymo. The two companies are currently in permit limbo as they await California’s Public Utilities Commission to grant them both the right to charge for robotaxi services throughout the city 24/7. Despite support from the technology and business communities, Waymo and Cruise have run up against opposition from residents and city agencies, which may have caused the CPUC to delay hearings to approve their permits.

Cruise did not say whether it plans to launch its autonomous Chevrolet Bolts in Miami (although that might be tough now that GM has discontinued the vehicle) or if it’ll put its own Cruise Origins on streets instead. Cruise’s Origin is a purpose-built electric AV, built with no steering wheel or pedals for a human driver. In October 2021, Cruise’s then-CEO Dan Ammann said the company will launch “tens of thousands” of Origins on public roads in the next few years.

In March, Cruise’s current CEO Kyle Vogt said the company would begin testing its Origins on the streets in Austin within the coming weeks. While human-operated prototypes of the Origin have been manually collecting data used for AV perception system testing and validation, Cruise has not yet begun driverless tests in Austin. A spokesperson told TechCrunch Cruise would begin those tests “soon.”

Cruise isn’t the first AV company to make it to Miami. Last year, Ford-backed Argo AI began testing a driverless service in Miami. The plan was to put the service on Lyft’s platform, but Argo has since shut down.