The ride-sharing fleet of sharing Lyft Inc. will soon include thousands of specially fitted self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles, courtesy of General Motors. If plans push through, Lyft’s clients would be riding in autonomous EVs as early as start of 2018, according to a report by Reuters, citing sources privy to GM’s plans.
This brings the partnership between GM and Lyft to a new level – a technologically advanced collaboration that involves not just innovative electric vehicles, but also ground-breaking autonomous ones. Deploying thousands of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV to Lyft would allow the United States-based carmaker to accelerate tests of its autonomous technology on its zero-emission cars. One of Reuters’ sources divulged that Lyft is planning to deploy these autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs for testing in a number of states across the US.
GM’s plans are in line with pronouncements of its executives and with its investor presentations in 2016 that it intends to build a high volume of self-driving vehicles and then deploy them in ride sharing services like Lyft. Despite these pronouncements ad presentations, details are still vague as to how many autonomous vehicles will be built or when the US carmaker is specifically planning to deploy them. In fact, GM has only said in recent statement that its autonomous vehicle technology will be featured in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than people have expected. It should be noted that the GM acquired a minority stake in Lyft in 2016 for around $500 million.
Should the 2018 plan deployment of thousands of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV to Lyft’s ride-sharing service push through, it would mark the largest test of autonomous vehicles by major carmaker so far – much earlier than the 2020 target of other companies.
Other carmakers have already announced intentions to mass produce and deploy self-driving vehicles, but their plans were targeted towards the end of the decade. For example, Ford Motor Co. has divulged plans to commenced building its first self-driving vehicles by 2020, and these units will be deployed in on-demand ride sharing fleets the year after.
There are, however, some companies that are already testing autonomous vehicle prototypes, although the numbers of these units are quite small compared to GM’s plans. For instance, Waymo is already testing around 60 autonomous vehicles in four states. Waymo is using a small fleet of converted Chrysler Pacifica self-driving vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
GM chief executive Mary Barra disclosed in December 2016 that the carmaker would commence building a fully autonomous variant of the Chevrolet Bolt EV in early 2017 at its facilities in Orion Township. Around 40 self-driving Bolt EVs are being tested by GM in San Francisco, California and Scottsdale, Arizona, with plans to extend the tests to Detroit this year.