By on April 20, 2017

cruise automation

General Motors’ self-driving startup, Cruise Automation, has trickled out dash cam videos of an autonomous Chevrolet Bolt milling around San Francisco since February. The video quality was poor and it wasn’t anything we hadn’t already seen from a self-driving car. Tesla went so far as to call tech startups like Cruise Automation and Otto “small teams of programmers with little more than demoware” and scolded Ford, GM, and Uber for investing billions of dollars into “unproven” projects.

However, Cruise’s most recent video seems to show that it has made some legitimate progress in the last three months. Set at night, the clip shows the self-driving Bolt navigating a dense urban environment while avoiding collisions with cyclists, pedestrians, and even a raccoon.

We have to take General Motors’ word for there being zero human intervention, since we never get a clear view of the steering wheel, but the company has assured us that is the case. We also noticed the Bolt never makes a single right turn on red, even when it seemed safe to do so, and reached out to GM to ask why.

The automaker explained that, while the test vehicle is capable of a red right-hander, the engineers had disabled the feature. When we asked why, our corporate contact said they couldn’t elaborate on the specifics of the technology but assured us that General Motors places safety as the overriding priority in the development process, meaning the company probably doesn’t want to take on the added risk until the system is further along. Understandable, given some of the bad publicity Uber’s test cars have received of late.


Hoping to surpass rival autonomous developments, GM is investing like mad in Cruise Automation. Last week, IEEE Spectrum broke the news General Motors was planning to expand its test fleet beyond 300 vehicles — which would make it one of the largest — and add 1,100 positions within the Californian startup.

At the moment, there are only about 50 self-driving Chevy Bolts undergoing development in Michigan, Arizona, California. GM is using its deep pockets to change that, and has placed itself nearer to the front of the pack in the race toward level 5 vehicular autonomy.

[Image: General Motors]

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6 Comments on “GM’s Self-driving Team Fires Back at Tesla With New Autonomous Bolt Video...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Maybe the system doesn’t know when it’s *legal* to turn right on red. Because it isn’t always, and – at least here in PA – you have to be able to read a sign telling you “no turn on red”.

    Also, I’m surprised they didn’t blur the license plate numbers. That’s refreshing, actually.

    • 0 avatar

      They could probably keep a list of the turns where that’s illegal and keep the list up to date over the air. Would just need the states/cities to update them if there are any road signage changes but since true self driving will require state approvals anyway that’s definitely doable. All these cars have sign recognition though.

    • 0 avatar

      My GPS knows where a school zone is even tho the sign is not there.

  • avatar

    Nearly every state and municipal government uses ArcGIS to manage road network data on one level or another. It would seem like one answer to this problem is to publish the metadata for speed limits and other signs via web services from their ArcGIS Online accounts. The general public, including automakers and other companies could then receive updates in real time when signs are changed. A little team play between the public and private sectors would go a long way. That might be more straight forward than depending upon sophisticated camera’s to read signs in various lighting and weather conditions. Right turn on red should then be implicitly prohibited by automated driving software unless the state/municipal governments road network data explicitly offers the data with a flag that indicates that it is allowed. Then of course they could add a social feedback feature that could be fed back to state/municipal governments to indicate that they need to update their data for given intersections.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Tesla went so far as to call tech startups like Cruise Automation and Otto “small teams of programmers with little more than demoware” and scolded Ford, GM, and Uber for investing billions of dollars into “unproven” projects.”

    I doubt Ford or GM gives rats a$$ what Tesla thinks. When it comes to engineering prowess in how to design, engineer and manufacture a decent car they are light years ahead of Tesla. They know it, Tesla knows it.

    • 0 avatar

      As much as I like Tesla and how they’ve turned the industry on it’s ear, I have to agree. Ford and GM have more potential than Tesla could hope for. At the same time, GM wouldn’t have done this if it weren’t for Tesla.

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