GM-sponsored cruise to increase self-drive to Dubai in 2023

Kyle Vogt, Co-Founder, President, and Chief Technology Officer of Cruise Automation Inc. speaks next to the Cruise Origin electric driverless shuttle during an unveiling ceremony in San Francisco, Calif., On Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

General Motors’s majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise is expanding its activities internationally to Dubai.

San Francisco-based Cruise has signed an agreement with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority to be the exclusive provider of self-driving taxis and hail services until 2029.

The financial terms of the deal, which Dubai’s Crown Prince calls the first of its kind in the world, have not been disclosed.

Cruise is expected to start operations in the city of the United Arab Emirates in 2023. A company spokesman declined to say when self-driving vehicles are expected to be available to the public in Dubai. According to a press release announcing the plans, Cruise expects to operate a fleet of up to 4,000 self-driving vehicles in Dubai by 2030.

The agreement marks significant expansion plans for Cruise, which has concentrated its self-driving vehicle testing in San Francisco. The company has expanded its registered test fleet to more than 200 vehicles, but has not yet announced when it plans to offer a fleet of Robotaxi to the public in San Francisco. This was originally planned for 2019.

“Cruise’s selection was not made lightly. We went through an extensive, multi-year process to select the best possible partner,” said Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, General Manager and Chairman of the Dubai RTA Board of Executive Directors.

In the press release announcing the deal, Dubai is expected to be the first city outside the US for Cruise Origin, an all-electric autonomous vehicle that the company unveiled last year.

A Cruise spokesperson said, “There’s always a chance a US city could use Origin first, but we need a legal framework here in the US to do that.”

Cruise will create a new company based in Dubai that will be fully responsible for the deployment, operation and maintenance of the autonomous fleet.

The Crown Prince of Dubai, Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, witnessed the signing of the agreement between the RTA and Cruise. Jeff Bleich, former US Ambassador and Chief Legal Office of Cruise acted as the representative of Cruise.

The deal with Cruise is part of a mission for Dubai to cut transportation costs and convert 25% of trips in the city to self-driving by 2030.

GM acquired Cruise in 2016. Other announced investors include Honda Motor, SoftBank Vision Fund, Microsoft, and others.

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