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Cruise inches into Waymo’s territory in the Phoenix area

Cruise, the self-driving subsidiary of General Motors, has expanded its robotaxi radius in the Phoenix area by 20x as it seeks to compete with Alphabet-owned Waymo in its home court.

Cruise soft-launched its robotaxi service in Chandler, a city southeast of Phoenix, in December 2022. The expanded arena will now include Tempe and Scottsdale, according to a map of the region shared by CEO Kyle Vogt on Twitter. The service is free for now and will be available from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Vogt said the expansion will hit “power users” first, then roll out to everyone else. Power users are members of the public who provide regular feedback to Cruise. In San Francisco at least, power users have access to an expanded service area at night and can use the robotaxis during the day.

The company would not share how many vehicles it would add to its fleet.

Cruise will have to contend with Waymo in the Phoenix area. Waymo, which has been operating a paid, driverless robotaxi service in Chandler 24/7 since 2020, recently doubled its service area in the downtown area and opened up driverless rides to the airport to members of the public.

While the race has been a tight one between the two companies, Cruise has touted its ability to rapidly expand its geofenced boundaries as it “deploy[s] new foundational AV capabilities,” according to Vogt. A spokesperson clarified that Vogt is referring to the AV’s ability to generalize behaviors and circumstances in new markets so that Cruise isn’t starting from scratch in every new city it enters.

“The AV is learning from the more than 3 million driverless miles the fleet has driven and continuously learns and improves with each mile,” Elizabeth Craig Conway, a Cruise spokesperson, told TechCrunch.

Cruise’s expansion in Phoenix is just one of a slew of announcements from the AV company in recent weeks. On Monday, Cruise said it has begun testing its self-driving cars in Atlanta. In July, Cruise also announced the start of initial robotaxi testing in Miami, as well as plans to launch a service in Nashville.

Cruise’s growth also comes as the company, along with Waymo, awaits a decision this week from California’s Public Utilities Commission on whether it will be granted a permit extension that would see it operating a commercial, driverless robotaxi service throughout San Francisco 24/7.

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