So far, in the race to see who can mass produce and mass market the first self-driving cars, the biggest players have been Silicon Valley tech companies like Google, Mercedes, Ford, Delphi, and Nissan. But General Motors refuses to be left out of the race for what could be the future of automotive applications. GM recently announced its plans to enter the fray and followed that up with the news that the company will plan to build their autonomous Chevrolet Bolt right at home in Detroit, beginning in 2017.
This announcement was made to various media sources by GM CEO Mary Barra who said, “Revolutionizing transportation for our customers while improving safety on roads is the goal of our autonomous vehicle technology, and today’s announcement gets us one step closer to making this vision a reality… Our autonomous technology will be reliable and safe, as customers have come to expect from any of our vehicles.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the passage of a law in Michigan that allows companies to test autonomous vehicles on public roads. GM has been working on autonomous vehicles at its Warren, Michigan testing facility, but, until now, has remained quiet about its progress. The announcement that they will begin production early next year is a huge leap into position for a company that is fighting against very stiff competition.
Barra doubled down on the news during a speech to GM employees and shareholders, telling them she expects GM to “become the first high-volume auto manufacturer to build fully autonomous vehicles in a mass production assembly plant.”
If successful, this could move GM into the pole position in the next stage of automotive evolution. While successful with the Volt, the company really hasn’t been seen as a leader in fully-electric automotive technology. Now they have the opportunity to lead the charge as the next wave of innovation once again changes how Americans get around.
GM helped themselves make up for lost ground recently by buying Cruise Automation, an autonomous driving tech company that had already done the lion’s share of the detail work. The next step was to work out a way to apply Cruise’s tech to Chevy’s compatible cars. Meanwhile, GM has also invested heavily in Lyft, setting up a battle of the U.S. automotive titans. Ford recently partnered with Uber, Lyft’s chief ride-share rival, to test autonomous Ford Fusions in Pittsburgh.
That should definitely be an interesting market battle to watch.
Elie Hirschfeld is NY real estate developer.