GM Still Thinks It’s a Good Idea to Have Strangers Ride-Share the Cruise Origin

The Cruise Origin from GM is fully autonomous, electric, shareable 5 photos
Photo: Cruise
2020 Origin, the autonomous shuttle that goes "beyond the car"2020 Origin, the autonomous shuttle that goes "beyond the car"2020 Origin, the autonomous shuttle that goes "beyond the car"2020 Origin, the autonomous shuttle that goes "beyond the car"
In January this year, after countless hints that General Motors was probably working on a car that didn’t even have a steering wheel, the marque’s autonomous division Cruise unveiled the Origin prototype.
Cruise Origin is a shuttle-type of car that, indeed, doesn’t have a steering wheel – or, for that matter, any of the things needed for what we know as driving. It is fully autonomous and electric and is meant for ride-sharing, thus removing the many idle times a personal vehicle sits in a parking lot.

At the time of the big unveil, it was clear that Origin wouldn’t become a reality too soon: Cruise didn’t even include a space for a human operator that would act as backup. In other words, this vehicle had Level 5 autonomy, which, as we’ve been hearing for so long, is years away.

If you’ve spared any thoughts for GM during lockdown, know that the international health crisis has not put the brakes on the Origin project. GM CEO Mary Barra took questions from the media during a virtual “fireside chat” hosted by the Automotive Press Association, and she also talked about Origin, Fox News reports.

“It will be quicker than most people think right now, based on the technology advancements I’m seeing with the team,” Barra said, stopping short of offering any kind of timeline.

Because Level 5 autonomy is still in the distant future, GM is working under the assumption that, by then, it will be safe to put four strangers together in an enclosed space. Even if it’s not entirely so yet, the Origin is spacious enough and can be easily cleaned.

Initial plans had the Origin prototype testing by the end of 2019 and then late 2020. Those plans have now been pushed back indefinitely, but one thing is certain: when it does start testing, it will first do so in geofenced areas and without passengers.

Speaking of, Origin can comfortable seat four, facing each other in pairs. It’s sized like a regular car but it feels more spacious, and comes in modular form, which means the platform can be used for anything from ferrying passengers to cargo hauling. Just not for personal use / ownership.
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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