Chevrolet is the First Brand to Test Autonomous Cars in Manhattan

GM’s Cruise Automation is taking autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EV test cars to New York City.

The plan is to test the company’s autonomous cars in one of the most difficult driving environments in North America. The New York State Governor’s office says that the cars will cruise a five square mile piece of lower Manhattan. But Before they can do that, GM and Cruise engineers will need to map every street, alleyway, stop light, building and road sign in order to give the cars the picture they need to navigate when it gets more congested.

GM has already been testing autonomous technology in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Detroit, but none of those offers the combination of weather and a massive volume of pedestrians and traffic. Detroit has more snow, and San Francisco has traffic, but neither has nearly as much pedestrian and vehicle traffic as New York. Pedestrians are a big challenge for self-driving cars, as they behave less predictably and can change direction more suddenly than drivers.

Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt said that the dense population will let the company test the software in unusual situations and help it improve faster. The test cars will have an engineer in the driver’s seat, and another in the passenger seat, with testing set to begin in earnest in 2018.

The news follows on the heels of GM’s acquisition of Lidar manufacturer Strobe. Strobe’s Lidar helps autonomous cars “see” what is around them using reflected laser pulses.