In a potentially ingenious idea, General Motors and Lyft have partnered together to begin testing the world’s first self-driving taxis. Designed as an answer to Silicon Valley’s efforts to penetrate the automobile market, these taxis could potentially replace, or at the very least, supplement current taxi services on Lyft’s popular ride-sharing app.
Considering it was only a few months ago that GM invested 500 million dollars in Lyft, it only stands to reason that they would begin exerting some influence on the company in order to bring it to the next level. Apparently, the plan is only possible because GM is also planning to purchase Cruise Automation Inc, an able autonomous-driving technology company, for a billion dollars in addition to its recent investment in Lyft.
While the nuances of the deal are still being discussed, it appears that a pilot program will be implemented in a soon-to-be-named city. When requesting a ride, consumers will able to select either a self-driving car or a more traditional, human-operated, vehicle. Yet, Lyft’s potential for autonomous driving technology is merely one facet of GM’s clearly multi-steeped strategy.
They are also cleverly utilizing the service to heavily market their upcoming Chevy Bolt. These self-driving cars will be the primary, if not the only, vehicle available vehicle for customers that choose to participate in the self-driving pilot. The Bolt is a clear choice for such promotion considering the growing, albeit slowly growing, demand for electric vehicles.
In addition to reorienting themselves for a future increasingly free of fossil fuel reliance, GM is also partnering the Bolt with self-driving taxis because of the Bolt’s storage capacity. Since the Bolt’s battery is located under the floor, riders have more back-seat legroom than existing vehicles of the same proportions.
Interestingly enough, though perhaps unsurprising, is the amount of regulations currently inhibiting self-driving technology. For instance, Lyft and Uber have both claimed that in initial implementation, they will likely have a driver in the car to intervene should any unforeseen circumstances present themselves. However, both ride-sharing services expect that the driver should eventually be entirely absent from the vehicle.
While Google continues to make strides in its own self-driving program, Alphabet Inc., it would appear that GM is finally starting to catch up. A common phenomenon, Silicon Valley’s technological advancements are forcing automobile corporations’ hands to act on the future. Whether they will be able to adapt to the changing marketplace, however, remains to be seen.