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Robot taxi, meet the robot concierge.
General Motors has designed a new way to keep its future fleet of autonomous transport vehicles clean.
The electric Cruise Origin was designed to be a fully driverless vehicle, with subway-style seats and doors for passengers.
It is expected to be produced in Michigan and rolled out through GM’s Cruise service in the near future.
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Since there won’t be an employee on board to put things away during a shift, GM filed a patent application on a type of floor that can get rid of most messes on its own.
The submission, first discovered by GM Authority, describes what is essentially an electric treadmill that replaces a fixed floor.
Vehicle-mounted sensors and cameras detect when cleaning is needed, ensure no passengers are aboard, then rotate the floor surface, which can be fitted with ribs and crevices to catch debris and liquids.
The litter is then dumped into a collection bin which can be cleaned later when the vehicle returns to base for maintenance or recharging. Heating elements would be used to melt snow and ice.
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“Manual cleaning procedures require access to cleaning equipment not commonly present in a vehicle, are time-consuming, and require access to a bin to dispose of the waste,” the filing explains.
“For taxis and ride-sharing vehicles, operating time can be lost because vehicle cleaning cannot be performed while the vehicle is in transit to pick up an upcoming fare.”
Cruise currently operates a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt subcompact SUVs in San Francisco, but aims to roll out the Origin in 2023.
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A prototype of the Origin that was unveiled in 2020 was not equipped with this feature, and GM has not confirmed that the production version will have it.