Meet the nine cruise engineers who lead GM’s autonomous driving division from a science experiment to the first robotaxi service for the masses.

  • Cruise’s engineering team has survived times of uncertainty with a “resilient mindset”.
  • Self-driving startups hope to jump into the $8 trillion AV market.
  • Cruise launched its first fully driverless car in San Francisco earlier this year.

Cruise, a self-driving startup owned by General Motors (GM), is pushing ahead with plans to offer driverless taxis to the public while many competitors move away from driverless cars or move to more commercial applications such as trucking.

Earlier this year, Cruise began piloting fully driverless taxis with no safety drivers behind the cab in major urban environments for the general public. Cruise builds on these achievements with a nightly pilot program on the streets of San Francisco, where the company ultimately plans to expand to other cities.

The company is delivering driverless vehicles in western San Francisco through an app built by a product engineering team. Cruise is currently using a Chevrolet Bolt-based autonomous vehicle. Cruise Origin, the startup’s first AV, is still in development.

The team that achieved this achievement has been working quietly over the past few years as investors and other engineers have lost hope of autonomous driving technology. Pedestrian fatalities caused by Uber vehicles in autonomous driving mode in 2018 surprised many investors and brought a new level of investigation into the space.

During this period, many startups ran out of funding and hit the wall of technological development, shrinking the horde of autonomous players that once powered the auto industry’s hype machine. As competition dwindles, Cruise hopes to enter the $8 trillion market that leaders are talking about, waiting for robo-taxi and driverless delivery.

“One of the biggest changes for us over the past few years is having this resilient mindset,” said Mo Elshenawy, Vice President of Engineering at Cruise.

Elshenawy said it’s important to be honest with the team about challenges and obstacles while creating an environment where engineers can “embrace failure”. He wanted engineers to take risks without missing out on the bigger mission of putting driverless cars safely on the road.

According to auto industry experts, the quality of talent startups attract is a major factor driving the autonomous vehicle space. Over the past few years, Cruise has increased its number of employees from around 40 when GM acquired it in 2016 to 1,800 earlier this year.

Here are the nine power players from Cruise who are leading the startup to bring driverless vehicles to the masses.

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