Driverless Cruise Robotaxis Are Popping Up on Dallas Streets

Double takes abounded in Dallas Friday. San Francisco-based Cruise began testing its robotaxis in the city without a human behind the wheel. For now, company employees are along for the ride in the back seat of "under 10" robotaxis in the last stage of testing before the service is opened to the public.

You’ll never forget your first time.

The first time, that is, when a car drives by you without a human in the front seat. Its steering wheel seems to spin with a mind of its own; the car stops and goes as if by supernatural force; and the passengers in the back seat seem to be harbingers of a future race who coexist with all-seeing, all-knowing machines.

People in Dallas began having these “first times” Friday—and probably did a lot of double takes—thanks to San Francisco-based Cruise. The company’s self-driving robotaxis took a big step toward public availability by entering the last stage of testing in the city. Starting Friday, “under 10” Cruise robotaxis began driving autonomously without a human in the front seat in Dallas. The only humans in the robotaxis are sitting in the back seat.

For now, those are Cruise employees and their family and friends. But the company says it plans to bring commercial, public robotaxi service “to Dallas and the surrounding communities soon.”

Acquired by General Motors in 2016, Cruise has 400 robotaxis on the road

Cruise robotaxi night ridehail operation in one of the company’s other markets. [Photo: Cruise]

Dallas Innovates first told you about Cruise’s expansion to Dallas in May. The self-driving car startup launched in 2013 and was acquired by General Motors in 2016.

Cruise launched its robotaxi service to public riders in Austin last December. In May, it said it had already driven nearly 2 million “driverless miles” in San Francisco, Austin, and Phoenix. The company also recently entered the Houston market.

A Cruise spokesperson told Dallas Innovates the company has a total of 400 robotaxis operating across those markets, including the vehicles now rolling in Dallas. 

One last testing level, then you can take a ride

Cruise robotaxi daytime operation in San Francisco. [Photo: Cruise]

“We always start small and expand when we enter a new market,” the spokesperson told us. The company began by having human drivers hit Dallas streets “to get to know the city’s unique driving environment.”

Then, last September, Cruise began conducting “supervised testing” with a safety driver behind the wheel as its robotaxis began driving autonomously “throughout Oak Lawn, Uptown, Downtown, Deep Ellum, and the Lower Greenville neighborhood.”

Friday, the Cruise robotaxis began rolling in Dallas with no one in the front seat at all. An internal group of testers is now riding along in the vehicle’s back seats in the “final phase of testing” ahead of the company opening its driverless service to the public.

“This is part of our methodical approach to safe operation, starting first with employee riders and a small cohort of friends and family before opening up to members of the public,” the spokesperson said. “Our mission has always been to make city transportation accessible, reliable, safe, and delightful, and we’re excited that we’ll be able to bring our service to Dallas and the surrounding communities soon.”

Cruise robotaxi night ridehail operation in one of the company’s other markets. [Photo: Cruise]

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