General Motors’ first fully autonomous car will be electric, available to just about anyone, and it could be here before you know it.
The company plans to bring its self-driving cars to the masses by launching its first driverless on the Lyft platform, Pam Fletcher, executive chief engineer of autonomous tech at GM, told Tech Insider.
Fletcher would not share specifics about timing, but she did say the company’s first fully autonomous car will be available via the ride-sharing service sooner than you may expect.
“We have not made that announcement yet, but what I would say is this is all coming much faster than people anticipate, so I’ll say that much. We have been transparent about that,” she said. “We are working on an on-demand ride-sharing network with Lyft, it’s not something we are thinking about, it’s something we are very much readying for consumer use.”
Fletcher, who formerly served as GM’s executive chief engineer for electric vehicles, said the company’s first autonomous car would also be electric.
GM, of course, is making a big push into the electric car market with the launch of the BoltEV, a fully electric, long-range vehicle slated to roll out later this year.
While the BoltEV will be available for purchase, it is specifically aimed at urban mobility and was designed with ride-sharing in mind, Fletcher said.
Autonomous cars make sense as electric vehicles because they offer the passenger a better experience, she said.
“They (EVs) operate very smoothly, they operate very quietly, seamlessly, and so you can create this very positive experience inside the car,” she said. “People they want that, they want to get in the car and for it to feel like a cocoon, so they can take a nap or have a conference,”
In January at CES, GM announced that it was making a $500 million investment in Lyft and said that it was working with the ride-sharing company to create a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles.
In March, GM announced it was buying the self-driving car startup Cruise Automation to help strengthen its autonomous efforts and in May it was revealed that Cruise was testing its self-driving tech on the Bolt.
However, the company told Tech Insider that currently Lyft’s efforts and Cruise’s Bolt tests are separate programs. But it’s highly likely they will overlap in the future.
According to a Wall Street Journal report published in May, General Motors and Lyft could begin testing a fleet of self-driving cars on public roads before the end of the year.
Fletcher wouldn’t comment on specifics, but she did hint that the Bolt would play a big role in the GM’s push into mobility services.
“There are a number of things that you can piece together. We introduced the car about the same time at CES as when we really started talking about mobility and rideshare. So it’s not by coincidence, and if you look at a lot of aspects of the Bolt EV there are a lot of elements about it that are really crafted around a good ride share application, so that takes it into the future” she said.
“So what I would say is this car is a big part of a transformation of transportation and mobility.”
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