GM’s Self-Driving Cars Are Heading to New York

GM and its self-driving car unit Cruise Automation plan to deploy a fleet of autonomous vehicles in New York City, making it the first company to launch a test program in the hectic urban environment.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that GM and Cruise Automation have applied to begin what he called the “first sustained testing” of vehicles in fully autonomous mode in New York state in early 2018. Cruise is aiming to test in a five-square-mile section of lower Manhattan, the WSJ reported.

GM’s push into New York City follows a self-driving car demonstration in June by German automaker Audi. Audi’s demonstration was the first successful autonomous drive in New York, according to state officials. Cruise’s self-driving car program would extend far beyond a single demonstration or day of testing.

Cruise engineers are already mapping the area, Cuomo said in his announcement. All testing will include a human test driver who will be able to take over the controls if needed. A second person will be in the passenger seat.

Cruise plans to base a team of employees in New York to support this new effort.

GM, and potentially other automakers, can now apply to test self-driving technology on public streets thanks to newly passed state legislation that was included in the 2018 fiscal year budget. But to be clear, this legislation is not going to create a stampede of automakers and their self-driving cars. The law is restrictive and expires in April 2018, giving automakers a narrow window to test self-driving cars there.

GM has been eyeing the New York City market as a potential test bed for its future transportation plans. In 2015, GM launched a pilot program called Let’s Drive NY that gave residents living in Stonehenge Partners properties on-demand access to vehicles and preferred parking options.

That would later be rolled into Maven, the car-sharing business that launched in 2016. Maven combined and expanded several of GM’s existing test programs under one brand. Maven has since expanded multiple times by adding more cities and services.

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