There’s no clear indication as to which end of the car is the front and which is the back. Part of the challenge of identifying which is that there is no hood covering an engine, nor is there a trunk lid over storage space. Even more perplexing, the car is also missing a steering wheel and pedals. But that’s because Cruise Automated Cars has approached this project from a unique and novel direction. The car is officially called “Origin,” and while it looks like a block of glass and plastic on four wheels, the tech behind this car is pretty amazing.
“The way vehicles are designed, normally they have a hood in the front where the engine is and some storage in the trunk,” explains Kyle Vogt, the co-founder, and chief technology officer of Cruise. “But when you don’t need all that stuff… we can have this enormous, spacious cabin without taking up any more space on the road than a regular car would. Which is kind of insane.” That freed up Cruise to create a car that is essentially all interior. The side doors slide open to reveal bench seats on either end with a large open space in between, making it perfect for transporting people. “We built this car around the idea of not having a driver and specifically being used in a ride-share fleet. This vehicle is engineered to last a million miles and all the interior components are replaceable. The computer is replaceable, the sensors are replaceable. And what that does is it drives the cost per mile down way lower than you could ever reach if you took a regular car and tried to retrofit it. The replacement cost and the upkeep of that would just kill you from a business standpoint,” says Vogt.
But is the world ready for a driverless car? We’re approaching that point, and so is Cruise. “By the time this vehicle goes into production,” states Vogt, “we think the core software that drives our AVs will be at a superhuman level of performance and safer than the average human driver. And we’ll be providing hard empirical evidence to back up that claim before we put people in a car without someone in it.” Until then, you’ll just have to settle for cars with drivers.