Watch GM CEO Mary Barra take her first autonomous automotive trip with Cruise

General Motors Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra speaks during a meeting with private sector CEOs hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss the Build Back Better agenda at the White House in Washington, United States, January 26, 2022 discuss.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

“It’s just surreal” General Motors CEO Mary Barra says while testing one of the company’s driverless cars in San Francisco, calling it a highlight of her career.

Barra last week rode in a retrofitted Chevrolet Bolt EV with Kyle Vogt, founder and interim CEO of Cruise, the automaker’s majority-owned autonomous vehicle subsidiary. The self-driving vehicle, called Tostada, is one of a fleet of driverless cruise vehicles currently cruising around San Francisco at night as the company prepares for the commercialization of the operations this year.

“It was amazing,” Barra says in a video posted to Cruise’s YouTube page. He later added, “This is going to change the way people move in such a positive way… I’m over the moon.”

Vogt stepped in as CEO after Dan Ammann, a former GM executive who ran Cruise allegedly suppressed over internal disagreements with Barra.

Autonomous vehicles are seen as a potential multi-trillion dollar market. GM expects the operations to potentially contribute as much as $50 billion in annual revenue by the end of this decade. However, the commercialization of self-driving vehicles has been far more challenging than many predicted just a few years ago.

The ride was Barra’s first ride in an unmanned vehicle without a safety driver.

Late last year, Cruise began testing a fully driverless vehicle fleet with no human backup drivers. In November, Cruise posted a video of Vogt doing his first driverless drive in San Francisco.

The nearly three-minute video with Barra also shows GM President Mark Reuss and Craig Buchholz, senior vice president of GMs Communications, in another self-driving vehicle called Disco.

Reuss called the drive “amazing” and spoke about the vehicle’s performance and its potential impact on society, including seniors like his 85-year-old father Lloyd Reuss, who was also the automaker’s president in the early ’90s.

GM acquired Cruise in 2016. Since then it has attracted investors such as Honda engineSoftbank Vision Fund and more recently Walmart and Microsoft.