General Motors and Cruise Automation will be the first to test autonomous vehicles on public roads in New York state, it was announced Tuesday. The cars — which will have a pair of people on board as backup — don’t take the easy route, either. The geofenced test location will be the streets of Manhattan, starting in early 2018.
Earlier this year, Jack, Audi’s autonomous demonstrator, took New York lawmakers out for rides to familiarize them with self-driving technology. But even Audi only refers to the Jack as having “level 3” autonomy, and it drives itself only on shared roads. Cruise and GM will test level 4 autonomous vehicles, which are more powerful and—within a geofenced area—should be able to drive the entire route without human intervention.
GM bought Cruise for more than $1 billion in 2016 and has since been testing self-driving cars in San Francisco, Detroit, and Scottsdale, Arizona. Cruise has developed a third-generation autonomous car, based on the Chevrolet Bolt electric car. And in February we learned that GM and Lyft have plans to put thousands of self-driving Bolts into action in San Francisco in 2018.
Manhattan will be an even tougher challenge for robocars. Manhattan’s streets are a hellish agglomeration of potholes, double- and even triple-parking, and pedestrian and vehicle traffic unlike anywhere else in the country. Gridlock is constant, and few quarters are given by other drivers before they hit the horn in anger and disgust.
However, as Frank can sing, AV who can do it there can do it anywhere…