This handout photo obtained January 22, 2020, courtesy of Cruise Communications, shows the Cruise Origin in San Francisco. (Cruise Communications/AFP/Daniel Vine Garcia)
Don't bother to look for the steering wheel or pedals in the new autonomous shuttle vehicle unveiled by Cruise, the startup owned by General Motors.
The vehicle is "our answer to the question about what transportation system you'd build, if you could start from scratch," said chief executive Dan Ammann in unveiling the electric-powered Cruise Origin late Tuesday.
"We removed the engine. We removed the driver -- who, more often than not, is tired, distracted, frustrated, and rushed. We removed the equipment that's there to support the driver, including the steering wheel, pedals, rearview mirrors, windshield wipers, and cramped seats."
Cruise said the Origin was a "production vehicle" designed for shared transportation, but stopped short of releasing details on availability or pricing.
GM acquired Cruise in 2016 amid a race by automakers to get into autonomous vehicles which can help reshape urban environments by allowing for shared rides without owning a car.
But to date, autonomous vehicles are largely limited to small-scale tests in limited areas, with former Google car division Waymo seen as one of the leading firms.
Most of the autonomous cars on the road today have drivers who can take control in an emergency, and the Cruise Origin may be the first to hit the roads without that capability.
Analyst Richard Windsor said on his Radio Free Mobile blog that the Cruise Origin announcement offered "no details of its range, launch date or even cost were given, leaving observers with more questions than answers."
Windsor said he does not expect any major deployment of autonomous vehicles before 2028.
"I suspect that GM Cruise is under pressure to show something and because the technology is nowhere near commercialization, a show car is what we got," he said.
"Hence, I do not think that this advances in any way GM Cruise’s timetable to market and I see no reason to update my estimate for autonomous driving becoming a commercial reality."
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