General Motors is inching closer to its goal of building vehicles that aren’t just friendly with the environment, but are also fully autonomous. This comes as GM’s Chevrolet division recently completed the assembly of around 130 units of Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle employing mass-production techniques.
These 130 Chevy Bolt EVs – which are still test units -- are equipped with the carmaker’s next generation of self-driving technology, as developed by Cruise Automation, a GM subsidiary. The first of these 130 self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV test vehicles rolled off the production at GM’s Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township, Michigan, in January 2017. At that moment, GM achieved a new milestone by becoming the first carmaker to assemble self-driving test vehicles in a mass-production facility using mass production methods.
These 130 units of next-generation self-driving Chevy Bolt EVs are set to join over 50 units of current-generation autonomous Bolt EVs that are now deployed in testing fleets in several locations like in San Francisco, California; Scottsdale, Arizona; and metro Detroit in Michigan. Engineers from both GM Cruise Automation engineers have been testing self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EVs on public roads in San Francisco and Scottsdale since June 2016. These engineers have also been testing these Bolt EVs on public roads in Warren, Michigan, since January 2017.
According to GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, the production milestone brings the carmaker closer to achieving its vision of personal mobility. She added that by expanding its real-world test fleet, GM could ensure that its autonomous vehicles comply with the same strict standards for both safety and quality that all GM vehicles adhere to.
To transform the Chevrolet Bolt EVs into self-driving units, they were first fitted with a host of equipment that enables autonomous driving. Equipped elements include LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), sensors and cameras as well as other related hardware that would help ensure both reliability and safety of self-driving vehicles when they were being deployed and tested on the road.
Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise Automation, remarked that to make sure that self-driving cars have to be deployed at scale. He quipped that by developing the next generation of the self-driving platform in San Francisco and building the autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs in Michigan, GM and Cruise Automation have established the safest and the most consistent conditions to have these cars tested in some of the most challenging urban roads.
Barra disclosed in December 2016 that GM would commence building a fully autonomous variant of the Chevrolet Bolt EV in early 2017 at its facilities in Orion Township. Then in February 2017, ride-sharing company Lyft Inc. announced that its fleet would include thousands of specially fitted self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EVs as early as start of 2018.