Published: Mon, December 04, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Autonomous cars closer than we think

Autonomous cars closer than we think

GM considers autonomous vehicles the "biggest business opportunity since the creation of the internet", a market with with multitrillion-dollar potential that goes hand-in-hand with electric vehicles. 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.

The Detroit automaker made the announcement at an investor presentation in San Francisco Thursday, saying that based on its current rate of change, it expects "commercial launch at scale" of the autonomous vehicles within the next year or so.

Some of GM's share surge has come from investors betting on its investments in self-driving and electric cars, although the company's profits are driven entirely by demand for trucks and SUVs in North America, and its growing sales in China. GM said there still was much more hard engineering work to do. While others like Ford are just announcing partnerships to start bringing self-driving cars to the road, GM has already had self-driving Bolts humming around the streets of San Francisco, Phoenix, and other cities for some time.

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Waymo, which is the self-driving vehicle spinoff of Google, was the first company to take the driver from the seat on public roadways in early November. An employee in the back will be able to stop the vehicle by pushing a button but won't be able to steer the vehicle.

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

Vogt said those issues would improve over time and that the victor of the self-driving auto race would be the one that first launches at "massive scale" rather than just being the first to market a model.

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With today's ride-hailing services, consumer do not have to be concerned with having sticker shock for the price of electric vehicles, and automation costs in the first few years will be expensive as well.

GM, which invested $500 million in Lyft in 2016, says it sees a "clear path" to reducing the cost-per-mile of ride-sharing services to under $1 by 2025.

Major automakers as well as technology leaders like Alphabet Inc and Intel Corp have poured billions into autonomous vehicle research, although fully self-driving cars are a work in progress.

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