GM plan­ning to launch self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles

Au­tomaker says it ex­pects com­mer­cial launch in 2019

The Mercury News Weekend - - BUSINESS - By Tom Krisher Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin con­trib­uted to this re­port.

DETROIT » Gen­eral Mo­tors Co. ex­pects to carry pas­sen­gers and de­liver goods with self- driv­ing ve­hi­cles in big cities some­time in 2019, telling in­vestors it’s mov­ing quickly and plans to be ahead of other au­tomak­ers and tech com­pa­nies.

The Detroit au­tomaker made the an­nounce­ment at an in­vestor pre­sen­ta­tion in San Fran­cisco Thurs­day, say­ing that based on its cur­rent rate of change, it ex­pects “com­mer­cial launch at scale” of the au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles within the next year or so. The ve­hi­cles would not have a hu­man backup driver, the com­pany said

Com­pany ex­ec­u­tives didn’t say how many ve­hi­cles GM would de­ploy or what cities they would be in, but they­were clear that the com­pany plans to run ride-hail­ing and de­liv- ery ser­vices and quickly make money off them — at higher profit mar­gins than it now makes from sell­ing cars and trucks.

“This busi­ness is po­ten­tially big­ger than our cur­rent core busi­ness,” Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Chuck Stevens told the group.

GM said it is im­por­tant to be first to get the self- driv­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles on the road so the rider ex­pe­ri­ence can be im­proved quickly and give the com­pany a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. GM said there still was much more dif­fi­cult engi­neer­ing work to do. And it’s not quite clear yet whether the auto maker will be first.

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 is also part­ner­ing with BMW AG, chip­maker In­tel Corp. and cam­era and vis­ual recog­ni­tion soft­ware maker Mo­bil­eye.

Google’s Waymo di­vi­sion is test­ing self-driv­ing mini­vans in Phoenix, car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers with­out a backup driver in the front seat. An em­ployee in the back will be able to stop the ve­hi­cle by push­ing a but­ton but won’t be able to steer the ve­hi­cle. Waymo plans to an­nounce a com­mer­cial ser­vice in the next few months.

Ger­man au­tomaker Daim­ler AG has teamed up­with sup­plier Bosch to de­velop au­ton­o­mous taxis by 2020. And Ford plans to have a self- driv­ing car avail­able for ride-hail­ing ser­vices by 2021.

GM Pres­i­dent Dan Am­mann said the­first com­mer­cial use of EVs would be in ride-shar­ing. He wouldn’t say if the ser­vice would in­volve ride-hail­ing com­pany Lyft, in which GM has in­vested $500 mil­lion. More details, he said, would come closer to 2019.

“This busi­ness is po­ten­tially big­ger than our cur­rent core busi­ness.” — Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Chuck Stevens


A self-driv­ing Chevro­let Bolt EV that is in Gen­eral Mo­tors’ au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle devel­op­ment pro­gram ap­pears on dis­play at GM’s Orion As­sem­bly in Lake Orion, Michi­gan.

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