GM's contribution to the self-driving-future:
General Motors, America’s biggest automaker, has been focusing on autonomous driving technology since it collaborated with the Carnegie Mellon University in 2007. Together they created a driverless vehicle in a competition sponsored by DARPA. Ever since, GM has been relatively quiet about their self-driving progress in comparison to other big car producers like Tesla Motors, Mercedes-Benz or Audi. These companies have delivered big promises combined with impressive demonstrations.
But as of late GM has been making more noise. Interviews, company plans, partnerships and acquisitions. The Detroit-based magnate is on a conquest to win back lost ground and to position itself in suspense of the self-driving-future. A General Motors self-driving car will likely be released sooner than we thought.
One of the new features GM has been shouting about is Super Cruise, the company’s driverless package for the future. Pairing adaptive cruise control with lane-centering technology, this application will allow drivers to let the car take over on the highway. The Cadillac CT6 will be the first model to integrate Super Cruise. GM also talked about testing a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Volts by the end of 2016. But Super Cruise will not hit the market until 2017. Also automated lane-changing won’t be offered, like in similar semi-autonomous technologies that have already been implemented by Tesla, Volvo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. In conclusion: Super Cruise will not be a pioneer from the start, so GM decides to buy their way further into the race.
Partnerships and Acquisitions
Mobileye develops advanced driver assistance systems based on vision. With this technology it provides cars with warnings for collision prevention. Mobileye's camera technology has been bought by most big car producers, but GM has gone further with their partnership. Together with Volkwagen, GM is also acquiring Mobileye's road data and digital maps that are gathered in road testing, under the project Road Experience Management. This project will have to become a direct threat to Google's Lidar-mapping system, that until now is still unique in its kind.
In addition, GM has engaged war on Google's own territory by buying Silicon Valley based tech startup Cruise Automation. Cruise’s main product, the Cruise RP-1, is a highway autopilot. Cruise's self-driving know-how will be used in improving Super Cruise, for example in the implementation of countermeasures to make sure drivers stay ready to take the wheel. According to GM Super Cruise-equipped cars will have a camera behind the steering wheel continuously scanning the driver’s eyes and face. If the driver is not watching the highway, the seat will vibrate, the steering wheel light turns from green to red and ultimately the car will slow down.
What does GM's future hold?
A third important synergy is GM's partnership with Lyft. It gives away GM's ultimate plan. Lyft is a rideshare service-provider (rival of Uber) and together they will build out a connected network for self-driving 'taxi' cars. The project is named Express Drive. General Motors CEO Mary Barry believes that the General Motors self-driving car will not rely on the traditional owner-driver model to keep its business going, because human driving will become nonexistent. Therefor he started this joint development of a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles.
Also Mark Reuss, chief product development, talks about GM's road map to autonomy. That map starts with “Driver mostly in charge” in 2017, to “Car mostly in charge” in 2020, and finally “Car in charge” in 2025. This, Reuss says, will lead GM into the post-car-ownership future, where driving is for hobbyists and transportation is a taxi-service delivered Google Koalas, Uber taxi's or GM/Lyft cars.