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GM Cruise preparing to launch pilot program in San Francisco?

by Justin King

Emails with public officials suggest the company could soon begin offering rides in autonomous taxis,

General Motors' Cruise division is apparently preparing to launch a pilot program for self-driving taxis in San Francisco.

The company has been engaged in discussions with city officials to create a mandatory "law enforcement action plan" and train its autonomous vehicles to properly respond to emergency vehicles, according to documents obtained by Jalopnik through a public records request.

"I want to be deferential to everyone's time and work, but without compromising needed AV safety ahead of our forthcoming pilot launch," GM Cruise's government relations head, Nadia Marquez, wrote in one email to officials.

Cruise appears to have annoyed at least one city official after requesting access to emergency vehicles to help train the fleet of autonomous vehicles.

San Francisco police commander Teresa Ewins accidentally copied GM's Marquez in an email to Andres Power, an advisor to the mayor, warning that "these are the games they play right now" and expressing frustration that the automaker keeps changing its requests.

"I am sorry if it does not sit well with you," Ewins wrote in a follow-up message to Marquez. "With that said, you must understand that I am being told one thing that you want to capture, and then I am told you want to be on the street in specific areas which means you will be mapping the area. If it is purely about sirens and lights that can be accomplished at our training facility."

The company had previously dismissed the possibility of running a limited pilot program. It is unclear if the plans have changed or if GM may be preparing to dial back its full 'commercial' launch scheduled for 2019.

For now, Google is the only company to have demonstrated a clear path to commercial launch with plans to begin offering taxi rides in driverless vehicles later this year.