SAN FRANCISCO — My first trip in a driverless vehicle went smoothly — until the car pulled over and ended the ride.
I arranged to ride in one of the autonomous, electric Chevrolet Bolts deployed by General Motors-backed Cruise to try out self-driving technology for myself while I was here last month for a GMC Hummer EV SUV media drive.
As the new GM reporter for Automotive News, I have heard executives talk about Cruise’s plans to expand this year and beyond, and it’s important that I become familiar with the company if I’m going to track Cruise’s progress toward its growth benchmarks.
It turns out that my experience at the end of my Cruise ride was the result of a software glitch. To take a round-trip test drive, the company’s communications team recommended that I continuously reroute the vehicle through a mobile app before arriving at each programmed destination to keep it from finishing the ride.
I successfully changed destinations more than once but the app displayed a spinning wheel on my last try and wouldn’t accept my final destination. Instead, the Bolt pulled over to let me out a few miles from my hotel.
The ride otherwise was uneventful. Cruise checked all the safety boxes it needed to: The car stopped at red lights and stop signs, waited for pedestrians to cross the street, and left space between itself and a vehicle in the process of parallel parking. I generally consider myself a cautious person, and I never felt unsafe during the ride, though it was initially unsettling in the way new experiences often are. I’d venture to say I’d probably take another ride.