Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,
I’ve used ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft quite often when I travel out of town. We found it very helpful and efficient on our trip to Boston, and although at first we had our concerns, we even trusted the drivers to pick up our youngest daughter from high school at times.
Now I’ve read General Motors plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, beginning in 2018. The plan is to modify the Bolt electric vehicle (EV) to a fully autonomous vehicle (Bolt AV).
It is expected to be the largest such test of fully autonomous vehicles by any major automaker before 2020, when several companies have said they plan to begin building and deploying such vehicles in higher volumes. Google’s Waymo unit, in comparison, is currently testing about 60 self-driving prototypes in four states.
Most of the specially equipped versions of the Chevrolet Bolt EV will be used by San Francisco-based Lyft, which will test them in its ride-sharing fleet in several states, one source said. GM has no immediate plans to sell the Bolt AV to individual customers, according to automotive news. Lyft declined to comment for this article.
GM executives have said in interviews and investor presentations during the past year that they intend to mass-produce autonomous vehicles and deploy them in ride services fleets. However, GM officials have neither revealed details of the scale of production, nor the timing of the deployment of those vehicles.
In a statement on Friday, GM said: “We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think.”
GM’s cross-town rival Ford Motor Co. said it plans to begin building its first self-driving vehicles at a suburban Detroit plant in late 2020, for deployment in on-demand ride sharing fleets in 2021. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is providing a small number of Chrysler Pacifica minivans to Waymo, which is converting them for self-driving tests.
I’m assuming the cost of these autonomous vehicles, the very early ones, will be six figures; there aren’t very many retail customers that are willing to go out and spend that kind of money. However, CEO Mary Barra in mid-December stated GM would begin building a fully autonomous version of the Bolt EV in early 2017 at its Orion Township plant north of Detroit.
GM is testing about 40 Bolt AVs in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Ariz., and plans to extend testing this year to Detroit, the automaker said in December.
A year ago, GM paid $500 million for a minority stake in Lyft, the second-largest U.S. ride sharing firm after Uber. It is also said that GM discussed with Lyft founders Logan Green and John Zimmer the prospect of jointly developing a ride sharing business with self-driving cars.
To make this successful, it is going to require the ability to engineer autonomous systems, to build self-driving vehicles in volume and to deploy them in a ride-sharing fleet. GM in early 2016 acquired Cruise Automation, a San Francisco startup, to help it accelerate development of self-driving cars.
GM also launched a car sharing business, Maven, which has provided vehicles to Lyft. GM’s Maven car-sharing operation likely will be involved with Lyft in developing a commercial ride-sharing business around self-driving vehicles such as the Bolt AV, stated GM Executive Mike Ableson in a November interview.
I know that Cruise, Lyft, Maven ,GM, Ford Chrysler and a lot of smart people all need to come together to make this happen in the world of self-driving cars.
As for me I like the human Uber drivers,
The Hemet Car Guy