General Motors Co. expects to carry passengers and deliver goods with self-driving vehicles in big cities sometime in 2019, telling investors it's moving quickly and plans to be ahead of other automakers and tech companies.
Double-parked cars and orange traffic cones tripped up the computer driver, causing it to pause for long periods, and a taco truck stumped the machine, forcing its human companion to take over the wheel.
Earlier this month, GM said it would launch a range of electric vehicles in 2021 in a direct challenge to market leader Tesla, which is struggling to ramp up its more affordable, high-volume Model 3.
In addition to scale, GM is also banking on a first-mover advantage with this service. Robo-taxi service is seen as the main use for most self-driving vehicles, including the Bolt.
GM shares were down 1.7% at $43.05 on Thursday afternoon. Now, it has outlined more broadly its strategy, in which self-driving Bolts could be manufactured at scale at GM's existing plants, driving down costs, and rapidly deployed in major metropolitan markets through a ride service to disrupt incumbents.
But GM, despite its vast experience in the traditional automotive sector, has its work cut out to catch upstart technology companies like Waymo and Uber. And Ford plans to have a self-driving vehicle available for ride-hailing services by 2021. Ammann said GM is in the lead to deploy the vehicles in large numbers.
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Self-driving cars and shared mobility will be accretive to GM's core business, Barra said, with the biggest opportunities initially to come from the U.S. East and West coasts. Urban environments are as much as 46 times more complex than suburban areas, Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said.
As one example of bringing down the cost of autonomous vehicles, GM said it expects to lower the cost of long-range Lidar sensors - a key element in self-driving technology - to $300 from $20,000, without providing a time frame. The cars GM ultimately makes for public use may not be based on the Bolt EV, though.
Already, GM is working on testing an autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle.
The auto, never moving more than 20 miles per hour (30 kph), navigated urban traffic, a tram line, construction zones, pedestrians crossing streets and double-parked vehicles. He repeated Chief Executive Mary Barra's promise in October that GM would roll out self-driving cars within "quarters, not years".
GM over the past several months has regained its status as the largest USA automaker by market capitalization over electric luxury auto maker Tesla Inc.
Google's Waymo division is testing self-driving minivans in Phoenix, carrying passengers without a backup driver in the front seat.
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