Economy

GM to Deliver Autonomous Ride-Sharing Service to 'Multiple Cities' by 2019

GM to Deliver Autonomous Ride-Sharing Service to 'Multiple Cities' by 2019

The scandal slowed GM's comeback, but it also galvanized its executives to focus on making its cars safer, and ultimately to pursue development of fully autonomous vehicles.

It has regularly announced big investments and progress reports, but the company has kept its prototype vehicles largely under wraps - until now.

Tesla, which now sells electric cars with some autonomous features, but says they already contain the hardware to one day be fully autonomous, also has its eyes on running a driverless taxi service in the coming years, provided by owners' cars operating while they are at work, asleep or on holiday.

GM chairman and chief executive Mary Barra said on the same call that the company is planning "the next chapter in our journey in the transformation that is happening in this industry". GM shares rose 26 per cent this year through Wednesday's close, compared with a 4 per cent gain for crosstown rival Ford Motor Co.

During today's call with investors, GM's executives made it clear that the company not only sees self-driving cars as an important new market, but it also believes that the technology has the potential to be more profitable than its current production.

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According to GM, if ride-sharing miles increase to 20 per cent of total miles driven, it could represent a US$750-billion market.

"Everything we are doing is geared to speed", GM's president, Daniel Ammann, told journalists at an event showcasing the cars Tuesday.

To help realize its driverless dreams, General Motors purchased the autonomous driving company Cruise Automation in 2016, and there are now some 1,200 GM employees working in the auto manufacturer's self-driving division. In October, the automaker announced it acquired LIDAR company Strobe Inc., a move it says will help reduce the cost of the light sensors used in self-driving technology by almost 100 per cent. Those tests are taking place in San Francisco, Detroit, and Phoenix. "We could do a much better job if we had a regulatory framework".

"The question is: 'Can GM deliver, and does Wall Street believe it?'" "We need to make it more attractive and the federal government has a role in that".


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