General Motors plans commercial, autonomous robot-taxi service by 2019

General Motors plans commercial, autonomous robot-taxi service by 2019

GM didn't say exactly where it plans to launch its driverless ride-hailing service, but identified "dense urban environments" in the. The sharing service could be run by the automaker or a partner.

"It's a big opportunity", GM President Dan Ammann said in an interview in San Francisco last week. "We think it will change the world".

The car-maker is already testing autonomous vehicles on busy San Francisco streets, as well as in Phoenix and its hometown, Detroit.

Ride-hailing services on the roads now, including those offered by Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., cost consumers about $2 to $3 a mile, with the companies paying their drivers the equivalent of about three quarters of revenue, GM estimates.

Tesla, which now sells electric cars with some autonomous features, but says they already contain the hardware to one day be fully autonomous, also has its eyes on running a driverless taxi service in the coming years, provided by owners' cars operating while they are at work, asleep or on holiday. It positions GM to compete with the likes of Alphabet's Waymo, which will soon launch a completely driverless robo-taxi service in the greater Phoenix area using its autonomous Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

GM has ample motivation to figure out ride-hailing.

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

But the big hurdle GM has to overcome is convincing the public and investors that it can go from building and selling cars to also operating a ride-hailing company featuring thousands of self-driving vehicles.

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.

GM is trying to create self-driving cars that need minimal maintenance and upkeep, like aircraft that hold up well to constant use, Vogt says.

The automaker's aggressive push into self-driving cars, electric drive and ride-sharing has been a key reason why the stock has soared in recent months. GM has invested $500 million in Lyft, which did not respond to a request for comment. After the afternoon presentation, shares of GM fell 1.8 percent to close at $43.04 while the broader markets ended higher.

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