Date
11 December 2017
GM has been focused on rolling out self-driving cars since its estimated US$1 billion acquisition of startup Cruise Automation in early 2016. Photo: Reuters
GM has been focused on rolling out self-driving cars since its estimated US$1 billion acquisition of startup Cruise Automation in early 2016. Photo: Reuters

GM eyes large-scale launch of self-driving cars in US cities

General Motors Co. laid out its vision for self-driving vehicles on Thursday, telling investors it planned a commercial launch of fleets of fully autonomous robo-taxis in multiple dense urban environments in 2019, in a challenge to rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, Reuters reports.

Underscoring the potential opportunity ahead, GM President Dan Ammann told investors the lifetime revenue generation of one of its self-driving cars could eventually be in the “several hundred thousands of dollars.” That compares with the US$30,000 on average that GM collects today for one of its vehicles, mostly derived from the initial sale.

The No. 1 US automaker, which views electric and autonomous vehicles as the keystones of future transport, has been focused on rolling out self-driving cars since its estimated US$1 billion acquisition of startup Cruise Automation in early 2016 that provided a toehold in the nascent industry.

“If we continue on our current rate of change we will be ready to deploy this technology, in large scale, in the most complex environments, in 2019,” Ammann said on a conference call.

Safety, Ammann said, will ultimately be the deciding factor on when to take the driver out of the car.

Until now, GM has said autonomous vehicles were a big part of its future but did not give many details. 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.

“We are the only company that has this under one roof,” chief executive Mary Barra said on the same call, distinguishing GM from its technology rivals in the autonomous sector.

GM said last month it sees deployment of autonomous vehicles in “quarters, not years,” and this week it finally provided a peek at its prototype self-driving vehicles.

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 US East and West coasts.

Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens said a robo-taxi service could be “potentially bigger than our current core business, with better margins.”

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