Cruise, a self-driving startup that was acquired by General Motors, has officially unveiled an autonomous electric car that’s called the Origin. The minivan-like electric vehicle has Level 5 (fully autonomous with no necessary input from a driver) capabilities. Indeed, the driverless car doesn’t have a steering wheel or pedals and will be used by Cruise to offer rides through a pilot program. The Origin isn’t just an autonomous vehicle, it’s, in the company’s words, the future of transportation.
For being the future of cars, the Origin looks rather unspectacular. It’s rectangular, has doors that slide open (similar to a minivan’s rear doors), and looks like it has a similar footprint to a compact SUV. It kind of has a design that’s a more futuristic take on a commercial van, but it’s not exactly the radical, cool machine we pictured autonomous vehicles to be.
If anything, the interior is the revolutionary part of the Origin. Without the need for human controls and everything from rearview mirrors to windshield wipers, the autonomous vehicle has seating for up to four – the seats face each other. The idea behind the business-like seating position is to maximize legroom. The sliding doors make it easier for passengers to enter and exit the vehicle, while also making things safer for bikers. A couple of screens on the inside provide riders with a map of upcoming stops. To get the vehicle in motion, passengers put on their seatbelts and press a “Start Ride” button.
Readers may notice that the Origin lacks massive sensors, cameras, and LiDAR systems on the outside, and that’s because they’ve been integrated into the body in a more stylish way. There are four swiveling arrays on the vehicle – one at each corner of the car – in addition to the familiar suite of safety components. The driverless tech isn’t the only futuristic thing the Origin has, as the autonomous car has an electric powertrain, though, Cruise hasn’t released any details on exactly what’s powering the vehicle. We’re pretty sure that the Origin uses an electric motor and a battery pack that’s from GM, but things like range and power are unknown.
What we do know, is that the Origin uses a modular platform that will allow Cruise, or GM, to manufacture the vehicle for approximately half what it would cost to manufacture an electric SUV. The vehicle is expected to have a lifespan of over 1 million miles, which Cruise claims is six times more than the average lifespan of a regular car.
Cruise didn’t state when the Origin will go into production, how many units it will be built, when the autonomous program will being, where Cruise will let the Origin drive autonomously, or how much a ride in the Origin will cost. We’re sure the company will come out with more details in the near future.
Cruise has been testing autonomous vehicles throughout the U.S. for roughly three years, including Detroit, Michigan; Scottsdale, Arizona; and San Francisco, California. The company primarily used modified Chevrolet Bolts, with the Origin being the first autonomous car that isn’t necessarily based on something else.
GM isn’t the only company to invest in Cruise. SoftBank and Honda are other partners, as the former invested $2.25 billion into the company, while the latter invested $2.75 billion.
We’ve seen autonomous vehicles before, from the likes of Uber, Waymo, and Ford, but this is the first self-driving car that we’ve seen without a steering wheel. Before the end of the year, reports indicated that GM was talking with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in regard to putting an autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel on the road, and as far as we know, the automaker is the only one talking to the government about this.
The Origin differs greatly from semi-autonomous systems like Tesla’s Autopilot in modern vehicles. Unlike those, the Origin can handle driving without any human interaction – there’s no steering wheel for crying out loud. Semi-autonomous systems require input from drivers every so often and require drivers to pay attention at all times when the car is in motion. Current systems in vehicles are all about helping the driver; the Origin and other futuristic autonomous vehicles are all about taking the driver out of the equation.