Autonomous cars closer than we think

Volvo cars will be fitted with self-driving tech developed by UberVolvo

Volvo cars will be fitted with self-driving tech developed by UberVolvo

With a driverless ride-hailing service as its framework, GM is counting on cost reductions, advancements in autonomous technologies and growth of the ride-hailing market to enable a successful self-driving vehicle launch in 2019, GM president Dan Ammann said at an investor event in San Francisco on Thursday.

GM over the past several months has regained its status as the largest US automaker by market capitalization over electric luxury vehicle maker Tesla Inc. And Ford plans to have a self-driving auto available for ride-hailing services by 2021.

As the cost of hailing a ride to the consumer falls, "the size of the market could grow 500 or 1,000 times", Vogt says. Instead of testing its vehicles on a closed course or in a "simple suburban setting", Wert said, the company has opted to test the vehicles in an environment that resembles where they'll actually be deployed.

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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". Those tests are taking place in San Francisco, Detroit, and Phoenix.

The No.1 US automaker - which views electric and autonomous vehicles as the keystones of future transport - said it believes government regulations will support development of self driving cars in the coming few years.

Because GM has software and sensor development, as well as manufacturing, it can roll out autonomous vehicles cheaper than competitors, the company said. That would position GM to compete with companies such as Waymo, owned by Alphabet, which will launch sometime soon a fully driverless taxi service in Phoenix, using autonomous Chrysler Pacificas. Waymo, the autonomous vehicle unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., earlier this month said it's about to start chauffeuring people in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV-supplied minivans without safety drivers manning the steering wheel. GM says the cost of the next-generation lidar will be cut by about half to $10,000. The Detroit News reports that Cruise Automation plans to add about 900 employees to its team by early 2018.

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Autonomous ride-share represents the biggest business opportunity since the Internet and General Motors is determined to lead the way.

GM stock fell 72 cents to $43.09 at market close Thursday.

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