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Self-Driving Cars Are Coming to Lower Manhattan


There are big “leased” signs in the windows of the former Classic Car Club space at the corner of Broome, but Jack Resnick & Sons, which owns 250 Hudson, understandably said that it couldn’t share any information. When I poked around elsewhere, I was told General Motors was involved, so I figured it was something akin to Cadillac’s marketing boondoggle up the street. But then I looked into the Department of Buildings paperwork for the space, which lists the tenant as GM Cruise LLC.

“GM Cruise LLC, commonly referred to as Cruise or Cruise Automation, is an American driverless car company headquartered in San Francisco,” according to Wikipedia. “In March 2016, General Motors acquired Cruise for an undisclosed amount, although reports have placed the number from ‘north of $500 million,’ to $580 million, to over $1 billion.”

What might the company be doing in Hudson Square? Last October, governor Andrew Cuomoannounced General Motors and Cruise Automation are applying to begin the first sustained testing of vehicles in fully autonomous mode in New York State in early 2018. Through Governor Cuomo’s recent legislation allowing the testing of autonomous technology, GM and Cruise are applying to begin testing in Manhattan, where mapping has begun in a geofenced area. All testing will include an engineer in the driver’s seat to monitor and evaluate performance, and a second person in the passenger seat. In support of this work, Cruise is expanding its presence in New York and will begin building a team of employees in New York City.” The announcement didn’t specify exactly where the testing would occur, but the Wall Street Journal and other outlets reported that it would be in “five-square-mile section of Lower Manhattan.” All of Manhattan is just under 23 square miles, so the testing area would likely include Hudson Square no matter how you’re defining Lower Manhattan. Looking at a map, I’d say five square miles would be everything south of 14th Street.

While we don’t know exactly how Cruise Automation will utilize the 9,500 square feet space, bear in mind that it’s one of the few street-level commercial spaces with a curb cut (onto Broome).

Also of note: Cruise Automation has a “ride-hailing app for Cruise employees to fetch driverless cars to transport them around the city” called Cruise Anywhere. In the Wall Street Journal article cited above, Cruise Automation CEO Kevin Vogt “wouldn’t say whether Cruise’s New York testing signals plans to eventually offer an autonomous-car service there. Testing in Manhattan ‘will be critical to the ultimate success of autonomous vehicles and the compression of the timeline for deployment at scale,’ he said.”

Here’s a video tour of Cruise’s self-driving car:

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