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GM Aims to Have Driverless Ride-Hailing Service Up and Running by 2019

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【Summary】The race to get an Uber-like ride-hailing company is now heating up, as General Motors announced its plans to come out with a ride-sharing service in large cities by 2019.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Dec 10, 2017 10:00 AM PT
GM Aims to Have Driverless Ride-Hailing Service Up and Running by 2019

While it looks like the majority of automakers and technology companies are in a heated race to start selling fully-autonomous vehicles to the masses, there are numerous little races taking place away from the majority of consumers' sightline, as well. Autonomous vehicles are expected to be safer and more affordable to maintain than traditional automobiles, making them the prime suspects to help companies start their own ride-hailing and ride-sharing services. 

Everyone's Coming After Lyft And Uber

Uber and Lyft have disrupted the automotive industry and the taxi industry, as well, with its services. And both companies are looking to improve on their already extremely popular recipe with self-driving cars. Last month, Uber entered into an agreement with Volvo to purchase 24,000 units of the automaker's self-driving SUVs. The large purchase will see Uber receive the vehicles between 2019 and 2021. 

Lyft isn't that far behind Uber, as the company recently obtained a permit to test autonomous vehicles in California. While Uber is working with Volvo, Lyft has partnered with Ford, as the ride-hailing company is looking to deploy the automaker's driverless cars onto the road by 2021.  

The year 2021, then, looks like it will be a busy time for both Uber and Lyft, as the companies look to expand their ride-hailing services with driverless vehicles. Unfortunately, for Uber and Lyft at least, there are other companies looking to get into the autonomous ride-sharing segment and they're not messing around. 

General Motors Makes A Big Splash

According to a report by Fortune, General Motors recently announced plans for it to come out with an autonomous ride-sharing service by, you guessed it, 2019. The service will be launched in major cities in the U.S. first and, hopefully, spread to other locations shortly after. If you thought rivalries didn't exist anymore, you'll be tickled to hear that GM's expected launch date is two years ahead of Ford's plans to unveil its autonomous vehicle. 

The vision, as Fortune reports, was outlined during an investors call from San Francisco where GM recently allowed journalists to take a ride in one of the automaker's prototypes. General Motors, like a lot of other automakers and companies, is looking for ways to utilize autonomous vehicles in a future of "zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion." Unlike a lot of other companies, though, GM is manufacturing and developing its own driverless technology. 

"We think this represents one of the biggest business opportunities of all time, since the creation of the Internet," said Dan Ammann, GM's president and chief of autonomous vehicle strategy, told investors during the call. 

What GM Thinks It Can Do Differently

GM's plan involves more than just slapping autonomous tech onto vehicles and calling it a day. As Fortune claims, GM's plan is a little more in depth and will see the automaker create driverless cars that operate more safely than humans, unleash the vehicles in urban locations, and then improve the cars' software to allow users to request rides at will. The catch, though, as Fortune points out, will require GM to do all of this at a lower cost than its competitors, which includes the likes of Lyft and Uber. 

"No longer will you have to have conversations with drivers that you don't want to have," said Ammann. "No longer listen to music you don't want to listen to, and there will no longer be creepy driver syndrome." 

The majority of companies and automakers believe that they can improve on Uber and Lyft's process of picking users up and it comes down to autonomous vehicles. Not only are autonomous vehicles expected to be safer than human-operated ones, but not having a human behind the wheel of the car is expected to make the process more enjoyable for users. A lot of people, though, don't share that same ideology. 

In a lengthy article, The Incline looked into the ways that Uber's decisions have affected Pittsburgh, and things, at least on the surface don't look that good. One Uber driver made the case that transportation is more than getting from point A to point B in the fastest way possible, and that human interaction, especially when it comes to transporting people around, is still a key aspect. 

Still, it's full steam ahead for companies like GM, Uber, and Lyft, which are pretty much all doing the same thing. "There's nothing GM is doing that Uber and Lyft couldn't catch up on,' said Laura Schewel, CEO of transportation analytics firm StreetLight Data. 

GM Cruise.jpg

GM Has A Lot Going For It

GM may not be pursuing an autonomous future in a unique way, but there's still a lot of things that the automaker has in its favor. As Fortune points out, GM has been making vehicles since 1908 and is doing a pretty darn good job at it too. As Forbes reported earlier this August, General Motors was in fourth place in terms of global automakers, trailing behind Toyota, Renault Nissan, and Volkswagen. 

Another thing GM has going for itself is Cruise Automation, the startup General Motors purchased last year for approximately $1 billion dollars. GM recently added 1,100 new employees to Cruise Automation as the automaker looks to increase development on its self-driving and connected vehicles. Together, GM and Cruise Automation are testing driverless vehicles in various locations, including Arizona, Michigan, and California. 

Lastly, as Fortune claims, GM has had no trouble getting talent from the technology industry to shift gears towards its autonomous-vehicle program. As the outlet points out, GM has managed to poach talent from Uber, Netflix, and Google for various roles within its autonomous program. Bringing experienced veterans to its program will only help GM in the long run. 

With all of these things in the automaker's favor, GM boldly believes that it can reduce the average cost of ride-sharing services from $2 to $3 a mile to "well under" $1 a mile, claims Fortune. That figure, though, is expected to be possible by 2025 and will require GM to create LiDAR sensors and battery cells in house. GM also believes that automobiles will help create "the world's largest internet of things platform," claims Fortune, which refers to an economic ecosystem that provides numerous business opportunities, including data collection and insurance services. 

"Transportation as a service penetration is in the very early stages," said Ammann. "Ride-share is only 0.1 percent of all U.S. miles driven. We still have 99.9 percent of the opportunity in front of us." 

As with anything else, there are possible negative economic consequences to GM's radical plan, claims law attorney Frank Petrilli. "The whole economic system around privately-owned vehicles would be wiped out, and no one is really having those conversations yet," he said. "Moves like what GM is making is going to trigger a response from the auto insurance industry and all the Uber drivers who will be made obsolete, so I think there's going to be a backlash there." 

Understandably, a lot is going to change in the future, and not everyone is going to be happy about the direction companies and automakers will take in the name of making things safer and more enjoyable, not to mention cheaper for them, as well. One thing's for sure, 2019 and 2020 is going to be a busy time for everyone. 

via: Fortune

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