AUSTIN, Texas — Driverless cars are on the roadways of Downtown and Central Austin.
The cars are part of service similar to Uber called Cruise LLC. The company is based out of San Francisco and recently launched in Austin and Phoenix. The vehicles are Chevy Bolt electric vehicles.
"Fully driverless vehicle, so this means a car comes to pick you up and has no driver. It's completely empty, and you open it using our app and get in, it takes it to your final destination. Cruise cars are equipped with dozens of lidars, radars, cameras and other sensors that create a dynamic 360 view of the world around it. The vast data from the sensors feed the AI brain that is powering the cars,” said Megan Prichard with Cruise LLC.
For now, the service in Austin is only for friends and family of Cruise, running Wednesday through Sunday from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. It's expected to open to the general public soon.
"The car is very naturalistic, very human in its driving and very safe. And people are loving the experience," Prichard said.
The company said it did have to go through a regulatory process on the local, state and federal levels to operate. The company said its cars have driven 700,000 driverless miles without any fatalities or any accidents with serious injuries.
There is currently an investigation into Cruise LLC, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, after reports that the vehicles had some instances of hard braking.
"It’s hard braking incidents. Ultimately, our car will always err on the side of being safer, so if it perceives something that might be a safety threat, it will break," Prichard said.
Cruise is cooperating with the NHTSA, and Prichard said the company is excited to be in Austin.
"They take out their phones, they start recording, they share it on socials and really enjoy the experience," she said.
"We are starting to see something really cool which is you can actually get into a car and drive to a destination without anyone in the driver's seat," Editor in Chief of Electrek Fred Lambert said.
Lambert said these autonomous vehicles are the wave of the future, and he expects to see more of these vehicles in a tech town like Austin
"Austin is a booming town, so it makes sense to go in these areas that are very hot right now," Lambert said.
Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown.