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General Motors-backed Cruise is set to expand self-driving operations to Dubai in 2023

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Kyle Vogt, co-founder, president and chief technology officer for Cruise Automation Inc., speaks as he stands next to the Cruise Origin electric driverless shuttle during a reveal event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

General Motors’ majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary Cruise is expanding operations internationally to Dubai.

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San Francisco-based Cruise has signed an agreement with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority to be the exclusive provider for self-driving taxis and ride-hailing services through 2029, officials announced early Monday.

Financial terms of the deal, which Dubai’s crown prince is calling a first of its kind globally, were not disclosed.

Cruise expects to begin operating in the United Arab Emirates city in 2023. A company spokesman declined to say when self-driving vehicles are expected to be available to the public in Dubai. According to a press release announcing the plans, Cruise expects to operate a fleet of up to 4,000 self-driving vehicles in Dubai by 2030.

The agreement marks significant expansion plans for Cruise, which has been concentrating its self-driving vehicle testing in San Francisco. It has grown its registered testing fleet to more than 200 vehicles but hasn’t yet announced when it plans to offer a robotaxi fleet to the public in San Francisco. It initially planned to do so in 2019.

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“The selection of Cruise was not taken lightly. We engaged in a comprehensive, multi-year process to choose the best possible partner,” said Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the Dubai RTA Board of Executive Directors.

The release announcing the deal said Dubai is expected to be the first non-U.S. city for the Cruise Origin, an all-electric autonomous vehicle the company unveiled last year.

A Cruise spokesman said “there’s always a possibility a U.S. city could deploy the Origin first, but we’d need a regulatory framework here in the U.S. to do that.”

Cruise will establish a new Dubai-based company that will be fully responsible for the deployment, operation and maintenance of the autonomous fleet.

Dubai’s crown prince, Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, witnessed the signing of the agreement between the RTA and Cruise, according to the release. Representing Cruise was Jeff Bleich, a former U.S. ambassador and Cruise’s chief legal office.

The deal with Cruise is part of a mission for Dubai to reduce transportation costs and convert 25% of trips in the city to self-driving transport by 2030.

GM acquired Cruise in 2016. Other announced investors include Honda Motor, SoftBank Vision Fund, Microsoft and others.

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