Cruise Origin is the Autonomous Pod You've Been Waiting For
Cruise, GM's autonomous driving subsidiary.
This is the Cruise Origin. At first glance, just another ride-hailing, self-driving EV that promises to change everything about how vehicles are owned and used. But this one is the result of a partnership between Honda and General Motors, and that makes it a concept that has a much larger basis in reality than most.
Cruise, GM’s autonomous driving subsidiary, says that we haven’t fundamentally changed the automobile in more than five decades. They all have a steering wheel, a gas tank, and what company CEO Dan Ammann calls “precious little room for each passenger.” So they went ahead and removed those. No engine, no steering wheel, no gas tank, no mirrors, and no windshield wipers. Though we’re not sure how much space those last two occupied.
In the place of the car, the Origin is an electric autonomous vehicle. Inside are two rows of seats, each offering seating for up to three, and facing each other. Because everyone loves to face rearward in cars. The Origin looks massive, though Cruise says “itâ€™s no bigger than your average car.”
It uses the space differently than a conventional car. Sliding doors offer a massive opening, one that’s very low to the ground. The doors also help prevent the “dooring” of cyclists when passengers are getting in or out. Cruise says that every seat offers extra legroom, though if you find yourself sharing a ride with three other passengers, you might be jockeying for foot space or interlacing New Balances with the person sitting across from you.
Each seat gets a bank of ports to let you charge your phone, plus there are screens to give you updates and messages. More displays outside do the same and help let you know which identical autonomous pod is yours when it arrives curbside.
For self-driving, the Origin is loaded with sensors, built on a new platform from GM. It has multiple layers of sensors and redundancy to ensure that a single failure can’t take out the whole system. It’s built modularly, making it easier to upgrade hardware down the road, as well as easier to repair. Cruise says that means a million-mile lifespan, which it will need because the company also says it will be worked “10 times harder than your average car.” Because it, ideally, will never stop moving.
The vehicles are intended to be owned by a company, not an individual, so they’ll spend day and night picking up passengers. Cruise says GM has committed to building millions of EVs, so it claims the Origin will cost roughly half of what a current electric SUV does. It estimates that using Origin would save a household in the San Francisco test area “up to $5,000” per year.
In his announcement, Ammann didn’t give a timeline for when the Origin could see its origin on the roads. But he did say that the company is “on track to crack the superhuman threshold in urban environments,” and that when the Origin enters production, the company expects to be “well past that threshold.”