GM enters the competitive self-driving market 1

Software is the new hardware. The auto industry has been increasing its investments and developments into new software technologies over the last decade or so. It’s rare to buy a new car now that doesn’t have standard or optional built-in software components, like Sat-Navs and touchscreens. The next big change is coming in the form of self-driving vehicles.

General Motors has entered the newly expanding autonomous market in a bid to challenge its competitors, like Google and Tesla, who are all developing these new technologies. As it’s still very early days for self-driving cars, GM hopes to establish itself as a leader in the industry. To rival the other companies, CEO Mary Barra has said GM is developing their own autonomous car.

The company are currently building a fleet of self-driving cars at their Warren Technical Center, which sits on the outskirts of Detroit. They’re using the 2017 Chevrolet Volt as the base model and plan to have the fleet accessible to its employees via a smartphone app, as a way of moving around the large Warren site. Barra told investors at their annual investment event that she hopes to have the car ready for their next meeting, but will only be put into public use (at the Warren site) when it is absolutely safe.


The current Chevrolet Volt model (2015) on sale.

Safety is the key for self-driving vehicles, as no one has yet claimed to have produced a programme that can accurately predict other drivers’ actions and movements. Safety is also a big factor for GM after the 2014 key ignition scandal, which led to 124 directly related deaths and the company paying $900 million in recall costs, fines, lawsuits and settlements. Around 30 million cars were recalled last year because of the fault, which had been a known problem and ignored for over a decade. Since Barra came into power in January last year, she has assured the public and investors that the company now takes safety extremely seriously, and the dark shadow that had loomed over them appears to be lifting.

Ms Barra told investors, “Some might find this massive change to be daunting, but we look at it and see the opportunity to be a disruptor”. If GM plans to disrupt the auto industry by creating these self-driving vehicles, then it may need to hurry up. Google’s venture has already seen its 48 autonomous cars rack up 2 million miles on private roads, city streets and highways. Although we may not get to test GM’s self-driving Chevy Volt, next year the public will get a chance to see how good the company’s advancements in self-driving are . Thanks to the 2017 Cadillac CTS and its ‘Super Cruise’ feature: a technology that allows the car to take control of the steering, acceleration and brakes, whilst driving on the highway.

On top of developing the autonomous technology, GM is also creating a car-sharing service. The service, currently in its test-run and only available to one apartment building in New York City, allows the occupants to reserve a car and access parking in one of 200 garages. The residents gain three free hours a month and after that are charged less than $10 an hour, or $75 per day. The company is hoping this will give them a leg-up on the future, as it’s predicted more and more people will prefer to pay a small fee to get from A to B, rather than owning their own vehicle. Companies like the taxi-app service Uber, are already enjoying the profits from similar ventures.

Autonomous vehicles are an inevitable part of the car industry’s future. It’s now a matter of not if, but when.



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