GM and Uber Technologies Inc’s rival Lyft announced that they are preparing to launch the first self-driving electrical taxis on public roads. The announcement came a few months after the Detroit-based automaker invested $500 million in the San Francisco-based ride-hailing service.
The autonomous cars will rely on tech bought by GM from a Cruise Automation Inc for $1 billion.
The two companies declined to provide more details on the testing program. Though we don’t now yet the city where the pilot program will debut, we do know that Lyft customers will be able to opt in the program when booking a ride from the company’s app.
Furthermore, GM plans to partner with Lyft to promote its electric cars scheduled to launch later this year under the name of Bolt. The Detroit auto giant aims to equip Lyft with a fleet of Bolts and persuade it to ditch the Chevy Equinoxes the ride-sharing company now rents to its drivers.
GM representatives argued that the Bolts are more spacious than the sport-utility vehicles because their batteries are hidden under the cars’ floors. So, passengers have more space in the front and more leg room in the back-seats.
GM’s move is most likely an attempt to catch up with Silicon Valley which has been making great strides in its efforts to replace conventional cars with high-tech, fully automated vehicles. For instance, Google has a pilot program for automatic cars, Tesla Motors is perfecting its electric vehicles while Uber is also heavily investing in driverless car technologies.
But the recent deal targets especially Google and Uber. Google’s cars were successfully tested in California and Uber runs a now not-so-secret driverless-driving research facility in Pittsburg with big plans to launch its first autonomous fleet by 2020.
Both Lyft and Uber said that the only obstacle between them and a fully autonomous business is states’ regulations. This is why Lyft announced that it would equip its driverless cars with a human assistant during testing.
Lyft has already built a mobile app that allows customers to opt for an autonomous car. Passengers will be able to dial a GM assistant in case they need assistance or a problem emerged.
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