GM plans large scale launch

GM's Self-Driving Cars to Be Ready for Ride-Sharing in 2019

GM thinks it can make billions in the ride-hailing business with its self-driving cars

The backup driver would be removed at the time of the commercial launch.

The ambitious timeline could place GM in an enviable position: with the unique ability to provide existing ride-hailing companies like Lyft or Uber with a growing fleet of autonomous vehicles or, better yet, to unleash their own service.

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

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there are about 100 test Bolts (with a human inside) already driving autonomously around crowded San Francisco - a challenging environment considering the bustling streets rife with avid bikers, trolleys, and traffic.

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

But GM, despite its vast experience in the traditional automotive sector, has its work cut out to catch upstart technology companies like Waymo and Uber.

Waymo, which is Google's self-driving auto spinoff, was the first to take the driver out of the seat on public roadways earlier this month.

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"For GM to get the benefit they're looking for, they need these cars on the road at scale as soon as possible", said Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid.

German automaker Daimler AG has teamed up with supplier Bosch to develop autonomous taxis by 2020.

GM President Dan Ammann said the first commercial use of EVs would be in ride-sharing.

Abuelsamid said it makes business sense for mobility services like Uber and Lyft to shoulder the initial expenses of costly electric and autonomous vehicles.

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. Once they're on the road, the vehicles' computers will constantly learn and improve. That's one reason Cruise has used the battery-powered Bolt for self-driving technology: Electric cars have fewer mechanical parts and should require less maintenance, he says.

The news organization notes that after the Thursday afternoon presentation, GM's shares fell 1.8 percent, $43.04 per share.

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