The General’s been working up to this announcement ever since buying Silicon Valley start-up Cruise Automation in 2016. It bought LIDAR firm Strobe in 2017, not long before announcing plans to put its self-driving cars in “dense urban environments” in 2019. It spent 2017 working through three generations and more than 200 prototypes of the vehicle, testing them on public roads in San California, Arizona, and Michigan. There are plans to expand to New York City this year.
The Cruise AV can open its own doors, and passengers will interact with it via a phone app and three interior touchscreens. The hatcbhack will first run in geofenced areas, with five LIDAR units, 21 radar sensors, and 16 video cameras feeding the data to navigate its territory. First, though, GM needs to get an exemption from the federal government in order to put Cruise AV fleets on the road. Last year it applied for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Transportation to get around certain required federal motor vehicle standards, like the need for an airbag in a steering wheel. Getting waiver approval would allow GM to put 2,500 Cruise AVs on roads every year. Ultimately, GM — and other automakers with autonomous plans — want the government to come up with national rules that will permit unlimited production.
According to one report, “GM is expected to make billions from its autonomous cars soon after they launch,” thanks to cutting all of the costs of a human driver. Last year, GM told investors it might make “several hundred thousands of dollars” on each self-driving car over the life of the vehicle. The average for all GM vehicles today is $30,000, which includes the cost of the vehicle. At the moment, it’s said that it takes more than $3 per mile for a ride-hailing vehicle to cover one mile in San Francisco. By 2025, cost should be less than $1. The way it’s looking now, GM could be the first to cash in on a large scale.