General Motors is taking their self-driving cars to one of the most challenging environments on the continent: Manhattan. GM plans to be the first company to test out self-driving cars in the city.
GM's Cruise Automation now has a fleet of 100 Bolt EVs that it has been testing in a number of smaller cities, including San Francisco. But even compared with congested California locales, New York presents a whole new world of tight streets, bad weather, aggressive taxis (who are unlikely to appreciate the autonomous competition), and a chorus of "Hey! I'm walkin' here!" Although that last one might help the cars to learn gesture detection.
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So GM and Cruise are planning to take a bite out of the Big Apple, according to the Wall Street Journal. Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt told the Journal that "anyone else who’s driven in New York City knows that it’s going to present some unique challenges."
GM and Cruise engineers will map a 13 square km section of lower Manhattan. Once the cars are in testing, there will still be a safety operator. A human to take control in an emergency, or in case of confusion.
Being able to handle the millions of pedestrians and thousands of vehicles that crush into Manhattan every day is the ultimate test of a self-driving car. It will require a change in how cars adapt to pedestrians. If it behaves like the Ford autonomous prototype we rode in last year, it could end up blocking a lane until the battery died, waiting for the never-ending stream of crossing people.