Cruise to begin testing Origin robotaxis in Austin in coming weeks

Cruise, the self-driving unit under GM, is rolling out its custom-built Origin robotaxi on Austin's public streets in the next several weeks, CEO Kyle Vogt said while onstage at SXSW.

The Origin vehicles won't be accessible to the public — at least for a while. For now, Cruise will be testing the Origins on public roads in Austin. But Cruise said the vehicles will be open to customers in a "matter of months."

The first Origin vehicles are already rolling off the production line at GM's Factory Zero in Detroit and Hamtramck, Michigan.

Last September, Cruise announced plans to launch commercial robotaxi services in Austin, Texas, and Phoenix — two hot spots for autonomous vehicle development — before the end of 2022. Those services, using Chevy Bolt vehicles, started with employees and "friends and family" at the end of the year. Cruise wouldn't share the exact size of its fleet. There are about 300 in the global fleet, most of which are in San Francisco. Dozens are in Austin.

Commercial services are expected to open to the public later this year.

The Cruise Origin, the product of a multiyear collaboration with parent company GM and investor Honda that is designed for a ride-sharing service, was first unveiled in January 2020.

The shuttle-like vehicle — branded with Cruise’s trademark orange and black colors — has no steering wheel or pedals and is designed to travel at highway speeds. The interior is roomy, with seats that face each other, similar to what a traveler might find on some trains.