Autonomous vehicles

It looks like it won't be too long before Scottsdale residents see autonomous vehicles like this Cruise tooling around.

Autonomous cars are coming to Scottsdale but Mayor David Ortega may have jumped the gun on when.

Ortega last week said General Motors will roll out its Cruise brand of electric, self-driving vehicles as part of a ride-hailing service in the coming months, stating, “I’m told they are coming off the production line right now … this is not hypothetical."

Cruises's all electric autonomous vehicle have been rolling around Scottsdale already - but only to deliver groceries from the WalMart near the intersection of N. Pima and E. Chaparral roads since summer.

 

“We’re very excited to have launched our autonomous delivery pilot with Wal-Mart this past summer,” said Cruise spokeswoman Elizabeth Conway.

“We continue to test with our partners at Wal-Mart in Scottsdale, and we’ve made thousands of deliveries through the pilot. Just to clarify, our focus right now remains on delivery no specific announcements yet to share on ride-hail services in Arizona, just the excitement with the mayor that one day we will.”

 

According to the company website, Cruise autonomous vehicles have logged over 2 million miles of San Francisco’s streets.

 

General Motors has been mapping Scottsdale’s streets for the last four months in preparation of this program, Ortega said. 

The vehicles should cut down on congestion in town whenever they hit the streets for ride-sharing, Ortega believes.

“I can tell you I have made many wrong turns driving to appointments. This is going to make things easier for everybody,” he said. 

Ortega said he has asked about the safety of the vehicles, but also added he’s more worried about distracted drivers.

 “I am concerned of the inattention of people with their texting and on social media on clear days with good weather,” he said. 

And a self-driving ride-hail service is a better option to mass transit than light rail, he said, adding, “That is so two centuries ago."

Cruise is a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors.

According to the company website, Cruise autonomous vehicles have logged over 2 million miles of San Francisco’s streets, according to the company website.

The website says the vehicles use over 40 sensors with a 360 degree view it claims can see hundreds of feet ahead and can detect surrounding objects within centimeters. It also claims cars’ computer can react quicker than a human brain.

The cars are built on the foundation of a Chevy Bolt, with 40 percent of its hardware unique to self-driving vehicles, according to the company’s website. 

Autonomous car company Waymo, formerly the Google Self-Driving Car Project, has been operating out of Chandler since April 2017 and early last year started a ride-hailing service that operates within a 50-mile radius.

Scottsdale is not within that radius and Waymo has been circumspect about when it might include at least a portion of the city. Currently, its autonomous vehicles serve parts of Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and Gilbert.

Waymo vehicles have endured accidents – usually caused by vehicles with human drivers – and even harassment since they hit the street.  

Police have been called to at least 20 incidents involving Waymo vehicles, which use advanced sensors and cameras to navigate roadways, since January 2020. 

Some of those accidents have resulted from Waymo minivans unexpectedly slowing down and stopping in the middle of streets and intersections. 

Waymo vehicles have also been damaged in a number of hit-and-run accidents.

Likewise, police have reported incidents of one person throwing an ice cream cone and another chucking eggs at Waymo vehicles. 

There have been multiple reports of people throwing rocks at the vehicles and one man was arrested in 2018 for recklessly aiming his firearm at a Waymo vehicle.  

One Chandler resident told police he felt like a Waymo vehicle was stalking his family at a nearby park because it kept hovering around them. 

The company later explained that it had been testing its vehicles in the neighborhood and that several were moving in and out of the area, according to police reports. 

CNBC reported last week that Cruise is targeting a fleet of at least 1 million self-driving vehicles by 2030.

During a GM investor event Wednesday, Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said, “We expect to scale the business rapidly.” 

A Cruise spokesman confirmed “that’s where the company believes it can be,” CNBC said.

To achieve such a lofty goal, the company would need approval from federal and state officials, which are in the early days of regulating the testing and deployment of such vehicles.

Cruise has been testing robotaxis in San Francisco for several years. Ammann said Cruise expects to begin charging customers for rides as early as next year, pending a final permit from California, and that Cruise vehicles likely would cut the cost of ride-hailing from $5 to $1.50 per mile.