General Motors, in conjunction with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, will begin testing thousands of autonomous vehicles in the largest program of its type starting in 2018 according to Reuters, based on reports out of the US.
Most of the vehicles will be autonomous versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric car and the San Francisco, California based Lyft will include them in its ride sharing fleet in numerous states. The Bolt AV (autonomous vehicle) is not at this stage listed for sale to private buyers.
GM executives have previously told North American media that the company was developing plans to mass produce autonomous vehicles for use in ride sharing fleets but no details have been announced.
Speculation points to GM’s ride-sharing subsidiary Maven partnering with Lyft in a future AV-based ride-sharing business.
“If you assume 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,” GM’s Mike Ableson revealed. “But even at that sort of cost, with a ride sharing platform, you can build a business.
GM is currently testing 40 Bolt AVs in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona, in a program which will soon expand to Detroit. GM will start production of this vehicle soon at its plant in Orion Township, north of Detroit.
Some 12 months ago GM purchased a minority shareholding in Lyft (the number two U.S. ride-sharing operation) for $U.S.500 million and at the time there were some mutual discussions about jointly developing an autonomous vehicle component.
GM also purchased San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle startup Cruise Automation to fast-track vehicle development.
Now GM has the ability to engineer autonomous systems, manufacture autonomous vehicles and to include them in a ride sharing operation.
Ford has slated 2020 to commence production of self-driving vehicles for supply to ride-sharing fleets from 2021 while Fiat Chrysler is currently providing Pacifica minivans to Waymo which converts them to self-driving versions and currently has 60 under test in four states.