General Motors plans to be the first company to bring thousands of self-driving vehicles to roads through its partnership with ride-hailing firm Lyft.
Two sources familiar with GM’s plan told Reuters last week that thousands of self-driving all-electric Chevrolet Bolts will roll out by 2018, with most of them going to Lyft.
The automakers has no immediate plans to sell autonomous Bolts to the public, the sources said.
Lyft declined to comment, but GM hasn’t denied the report.
“We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV (autonomous vehicle) technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think,” GM said in a Friday statement.
So far, Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving car subsidiary has the most autonomous vehicles on the roads with about 60 being tested in four states. Ford has a similar plan to GM’s with self-driving ride sharing fleets scheduled to come out in 2021. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be providing a few Chrysler Pacificas to Waymo for conversion to self-driving test minivans.
Reuters, which broke the story Friday, thinks that its November interview with GM executive Mike Abelson shed some light on the subject. Though he isn’t the first company executive to discuss GM’s AV strategy, with several of them acknowledging during interviews that self-driving cars will be mass produced and deployed in mobility fleets. Details on scale of production and timing of deployment were left out.
Ableson told Reuters that GM carsharing service Maven will likely be included in the roll out of self-driving Bolts for fleet testing. Maven and Lyft are likely to find more business opportunities with the first wave of more costly autonomous vehicles.
“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,” Ableson said. “But even at that sort of cost, with a ride sharing platform, you can build a business.”
In December, the company revealed that fully automated Bolts will starting being built in early 2017 at GM’s Orion Township plant in the Detroit area. Testing of about 40 self-driving Bolts will also come to Detroit this year after the first wave was tried out in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Ariz.
Abelson suggested in his November interview that GM could be uniquely positioned to engineer, manufacture, and test out AVs at a high-volume scale.
“If you take those three things, no one company has all three,” he said.
Abelson thinks that GM having a stake in Lyft, launching Maven, and last year acquiring AV technology startup Cruise Automation, could be a tipping point in GM’s favor in leading the way in the nascent technology.
“Cruise, Lyft, Maven are all bringing different parts of this singular solution around autonomous on-demand networks in urban environments,” he said.