Warning: Are These Creepy Cars Coming to New York?
I just got back from a week-long vacation in California, and while my time was mostly filled with beaches, redwoods, and wineries, something that I saw within the first hour of touching down in San Francisco is still haunting me 10 days later.
Thanks to its proximity to Silicon Valley, you can always count on the latest technological innovations to be unveiled in California's Bay Area. That's where I saw my first Lyft car, shopped in my first cashier-free Amazon Fresh supermarket, and rode my first rentable e-bike. What I saw this year, however, stopped me in my tracks.
New Cars in San Francisco
I couldn't believe my eyes when I finally pulled alongside the car I had been following for several blocks. At first, the cameras on its roof made me think it was a Google vehicle, but the answer was way more interesting. At a traffic light I was finally able to take a look inside... and there was no one in the driver's seat.
Company Offering Driverless Rides in the United States
Meet Cruise, a company that provides driverless taxi services to a growing number of cities in the United States. Originally founded in 2013 in San Francisco, the company was bought by General Motors in 2016, and after many additional investors and technological advancements, began offering driverless rides to the public in January of 2022.
My wife and I only stayed in San Francisco for one day, but over the span of 24 hours we saw countless Cruise vehicles navigating the city streets. The company says that driverless cars create a safer experience for both passengers and pedestrians, but it's hard to shake the unnatural feeling you get when you see a backseat passenger being driven by, well, no one.
I'm aware that I may be starting to sound like the old man on his porch wistfully wishing for the return of the good ol' days, but this is truly a new trajectory for personal transportation that may take many people (myself included) some time to fully digest. It will have to happen fast, however, as Cruise is expanding to more cities.
As of publishing, Cruise offers transportation in San Francisco, Austin, and Phoenix. There are also plans for international expansion in Japan and Dubai. With such large cities already welcoming the brand, it would come as no surprise if New York is next, although the company has kept any upcoming expansions under wraps. It's also tricky to get a ride even if you are in a partner city.
Currently, Cruise is invite-only, meaning that while rides are available to the public, the "public" is a very select amount of people. Technology-loving commuters who want next can join the waitlist here. Maybe by the time they make it to the Big Apple you'll have your membership approved.