GM to test fleet of self-driving cars in New York
October 17, 2017  Mike Colias and Tim Higgins  Dow Jones Newswires

[image  / Steve Fecht for General Motors
General Motors announces Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the company has completed
production of 130 Chevrolet Bolt EV test vehicles equipped with its next
generation of self-driving technology at its Orion Assembly Plant in Orion
Township, Michigan. The vehicles will join the more than 50
current-generation self-driving Bolt EVs already deployed in testing fleets
in San Francisco; Scottsdale, Arizona; and metro Detroit

General Motors Co. (GM) plans to become the first company to test
self-driving cars in New York City, a move aimed at asserting leadership in
the race to develop autonomous cars and a potentially important step toward
commercializing the technology.

GM will deploy a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric cars early
next year in a 5-square-mile section of lower Manhattan that engineers are
mapping, said Kyle Vogt, chief executive of Cruise Automation, the
driverless-car developer GM acquired last year. The move could be seen as a
threat to the thousands of taxi drivers piloting yellow cabs around New
York, as autonomous robot-taxis operated by GM and its rivals are seen
eventually displacing human drivers.

GM said a safety operator will be at the wheel of each car to gather data
and take over if something goes wrong.

GM's Cruise operation has been testing more than 100 self-driving Bolts in
various markets, but its work in San Francisco is seen as particularly
valuable because it offers a congested environment with a high concentration
of hairy situations that fully automated cars must learn to navigate. New
York will present similar challenges and offer new hurdles, including bad
weather and more-aggressive drivers, which will "improve our software at a
much faster rate," Mr. Vogt said.

"Anyone else who's driven in New York City knows that it's going to present
some unique challenges," he said in an interview. Cruise will open a
research facility in the city but declined to discuss details.

GM is racing to develop vehicles that drive themselves as tech companies try
to perfect technology that could shuffle the power players in the auto
industry. One-quarter of miles driven in the U.S. by 2030 could be through
shared, self-driving vehicles, according to an estimate from the Boston
Consulting Group.

Most companies have focused testing in Silicon Valley -- 42 companies hold
permits to test autonomous vehicles on California's public roads. That
includes Google parent Alphabet Inc. through its Waymo unit, which is
testing around its corporate campus in suburban Mountain View. It is also
scaling up operations in the Phoenix area, where it offers rides to
nonemployees in 500 Chrysler minivans, with a safety operator at the wheel.

Cruise and other new competitors are making up for lost time against Waymo,
which is considered the leader after spending eight years collecting more
than 3.5 million autonomous miles in more than 20 cities.

GM executives argue that hard-earned city driving is more useful for the car
to learn how to handle unusual situations that human drivers take for
granted, such as how to handle broken traffic lights at an intersection. For
example, Cruise's autonomous Bolts encountered a lane blocked by
construction at a rate of 19 times more often in San Francisco than in the
Phoenix area, where it is also testing.

Executives haven't given a specific time frame, but said they envision an
on-demand ride-sharing network in a densely populated area, and that
deployment will happen "sooner than people think."

In a research note this month, Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache said he
believes GM could launch a commercial autonomous-ride service -- without
anyone at the wheel -- "within the next few quarters, well ahead of
competitors." Citing recent briefings with company officials, he thinks GM
will offer its own service that could be "highly disruptive" to ride-hailing
giants Uber and Lyft Inc.

Mr. Vogt wouldn't say whether Cruise's New York testing signals plans to
eventually offer an autonomous-car service there. Testing in Manhattan "will
be critical to the ultimate success of autonomous vehicles and the
compression of the timeline for deployment at scale," he said.

GM shares have surged more than 25% in the last two months amid growing buzz
around its driverless technology.

Several states have passed laws to give autonomous-car developers broad
latitude to test their systems on public roads, including California,
Michigan and Arizona, betting the technology will someday spawn bigger
investments and jobs. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is pushing for
autonomous testing as part of an effort to fashion New York as a technology
hub, which has included significant investment in the drone industry.

"We're proud to be on the forefront of this emerging industry that has the
potential to be the next great technological advance that moves our
economy," Gov. Cuomo said in a statement.

The state passed a law last spring that grants autonomous testing on state
roads. Cruise's experience should generate data for future industry-friendly
regulation, an office spokeswoman said.  (END) 
[© 2017 FOX News Network]

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