General Motors to launch autonomous ride hailing service by 2019

04 December, 2017, 01:52 | Author: Sheri Evans
  • Two self-driving Chevy Bolt EV cars are seen during a media event by Cruise GM’s autonomous car unit in San Francisco California

General Motors Co. said Thursday it expects to deploy self-driving taxis and delivery vehicles in big US cities by 2019. That was the message to shareholders on 30 November as the company confirmed plans to launch a commercial fleet of electric, autonomous vehicles (AVs) in urban centres in 2019. The vehicles would not have a human backup driver, the company said.

GM has enjoyed a recent surge in its share price, as investors bet on its plans for self-driving and electric cars, although the company's profit is driven entirely by demand for trucks and SUVs in North America, and its growing sales in China.

Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens reportedly said that, "This business is potentially bigger than our current core business".

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Delphi, an automotive supplier, has said it expects commercial vehicles to be using its autonomous system in limited areas in 2019. Delphi recently bought autonomous software startup NuTonomy and would also partner with BMW AG, chipmaker Intel Corp and camera and visual recognition software maker Mobileye. An employee in the back seat will be able to stop the vehicle by pushing a button but won't be able to steer the vehicle.

Ford announced in September it is working to develop a similar autonomous ride-hailing fleet by 2021 with US-based Uber rival Lyft.

In a note to clients Friday, Barclays analyst Brian Johnson wrote that instead of the "overly-aggressive timelines pushed by Tesla", GM's ability to launch autonomous vehicles for a ride-sharing service now "seems possible". More details, he said, would come closer to 2019.

As it refines the performance of its cars, GM has the capacity to rapidly build and deploy more self-driving vehicles to other markets around the world.

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"It's a big opportunity", GM President Dan Ammann said in an interview in San Francisco this week. Once they're on the road, the vehicles' computers will constantly learn and improve.

GM says operating its self-driving cars will cost 40 percent less per mile than other ride-hailing firms that have to pay drivers.

Over the life of a ride-hailing vehicle, GM could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.

GM is far from the only traditional automaker investing in autonomous technology and ride-hailing services. The stock slipped 0.8 percent to $43.44 as of 12:20 p.m. Thursday in NY.

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