Autonomous vehicles are a hot topic in the technology and automotive industries. In 2019 they’re no longer the subject of imagination – they’re here and driving on our streets. They bring promises of ultra-safe, super-efficient, and extremely low effort transportation; and if the recent progress is anything to go by, it won’t be too long until we all get a chance to experience that.
Companies are eyeing up this emerging area of the market to stay competitive – the future beckons for automation, so it would be foolish for the big hitters to miss the chance to develop their own technology and dominate the market before anybody else can.
Who’s working on it? Companies such as Audi, Mercedes, Ford, Nissan – and even Google – are developing systems to be implemented in the future of self-driving vehicles.
General Motors have noted this technological shift and are working to develop their own autonomous vehicles to go on sale at Chevrolet dealers one day. But what are their plans, and what’s been happening right now in the company? While many of the developments are hush-hush, here’s what we know about GM and its development of autonomous vehicles.
The Future of General Motors and Autonomy
GM has its own division dedicated to self-driving cars called “Cruise Automation.” Initially a company entirely separate to GM, Cruise Automation was bought for $1 billion in 2016 as a way for GM to enter the sector of the industry quickly.
The goal? To bring a fleet of self-driving vehicles to the market by the end of 2019. By doing this, they hope to out-do rivals such as Ford, who plan to bring vehicles without pedals or steering wheels by the year 2021.
Other companies such as Uber, the ride-sharing transport company, have teamed up with other companies to boost their self-driving projects; in this case, Toyota is one of the big investors.
GM is serious about their efforts to bring their own robotic vehicles to the streets, investing $1.15 billion this year in Cruise Automation, bumping their total worth to $19 billion. Up until 2016 when GM acquired Cruise Automation, the company only had 40 members, which got bumped to 100 in 2016. This turned into 200 by 2017, and growth is planned to reach around 2,000 members by 2021.
What’s the Current Progress?
Investor confidence is a good sign for the direction of Cruise and the progress it’s been making, as well as GM’s future goals. Cruise plans to introduce a self-driving taxi service, similar to what many other companies have been working on and deploying – something its expansion will aid. It’s likely that the company will utilize modified Chevrolet Bolt EVs.
Cruise vehicles are proving themselves sufficient by pulling off some of the most difficult maneuvers on American roads. They’ve posted videos online demonstrating the power of the autonomous vehicles, performing a couple of the 1,400+ left turns it will have to manage daily. We’ve also seen them showing off the car’s ability to identify other vehicles and their speeds, which is a special feat when performed on the streets of bustling roads in San Francisco.
However, besides the already disclosed information and demonstrations here and there, Cruise is yet to provide comprehensive evidence that their vehicles are even close to competing with companies such as Waymo.
2019 is proving a difficult deadline to meet for GM, as there are already reports of Cruise vehicles encountering near-accidents, erratic-braking & steering, failing to complete trips, and slow driving. This suggests technological issues stemming from software and computational power – or under-power, as it would seem.
These vital problems are major bumps in the road, but they’re not the only company; Uber was dropped in hot water after one of their vehicles hit and killed a pedestrian, and Tesla has missed targets in recent years too.
What to Expect for Now?
Self-driving cars are coming – that’s for certain. Companies are moving around billions of dollars to develop them and they’re already on the road being tested. How long before we see them in our driveways? That’s a point up for debate – some believe they’ll be everywhere within five years and others don’t see them being ubiquitous for another decade or two. It would seem that GM is dedicated to the development of these vehicles despite setbacks, voicing support through online campaigns and billion-dollar investments. As for now, you’ll only be buying a human-driven Chevy Silverado 1500 at local Chevrolet dealers. But with the rocketing pace of technological advancement, be sure to watch this space.
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