General Motors said today the company is planning to roll out a new ride sharing service using fully-autonomous vehicles. While the idea itself is not exactly novel, the timing of it is: GM wants to have this launched by 2019.
GM isn’t knew to the concept of having autonomous vehicles running a ride-share platform. Through the company’s Cruise Automation division, it is already running such a platform using test vehicles. GM and Cruise employees can hail a ride from an autonomous Bolt EV in the San Francisco area.
Currently GM’s ride share platform still requires a GM engineer to be in the drivers seat, but perhaps not for long. GM says it has every intention of removing the new of a human backup by 2019.
During 2019 the company plans to launch the service in multiple cities for public use. GM hopes the service will allow for a rapid scale-up of autonomous vehicle technology, which the company says it can drill down autonomous sensor costs to about $300 once scaled out.
In addition to scale, GM is also banking on a first-mover advantage with this service. Most of its rivals, including Uber, are nowhere near the point of having fully-autonomous systems ready for deployment by 2019. Even cross-town rival Ford Motor Company doesn’t plan to have a fully-autonomous vehicle on the road until 2021.
The move will ultimately solidify GM has the leader when it comes to autonomous driving technology. GM President Dan Ammann said at today’s announcement GM feels autonomous vehicles are the biggest business opportunity to hit since the invention of the internet. Clearly GM’s actions confirm their sentiments.