General Motors’ Dan Ammann (center) with Lyft’s John Zimmer (right) and Logan Green (left)
It’s the season of autonomous-car announcements, apparently.
This week Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that the Silicon Valley giant would use the Detroit automaker’s 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans for its self-driving car research.
Now, General Motors has said that the Lyft ride-sharing service, in which it invested half a billion dollars, will use its 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV in a pilot program for autonomous taxis to be launched as early as next year.
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According to an article yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, Lyft will give customers the option of riding in the prototype autonomous Bolt EV when they request a ride through its app.
The company didn’t name the city in which the pilot program would be conducted.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV – 2016 Consumer Electronics Show
GM has previously said the Bolt EV would be ideal for car-sharing and similar services, due to its spacious cabin—which has the passenger volume of a midsize sedan—compact size and low running costs.
The company expects the drivers of such services to be among the Bolt EV’s buyers when the electric car goes on sale at the end of this year or the start of 2017.
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The Uber ride-sharing service is much larger than Lyft, and Uber—along with Google’s longtime self-driving car research and electric-car maker Tesla Motors—is expected to compete in the self-driving vehicle space.
The news comes during a time in which Silicon Valley companies, Tesla among them, are pressuring the world’s established automakers to move more aggressively into self-driving cars and other technology-based redefinitions of what a vehicle can be.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production vehicles at Orion Township Assembly Plant, March 2016
The four forces widely accepted to transform the auto industry over the next two decades are electrified powertrains, self-driving, communications among vehicles and infrastructure, and vehicle sharing in many forms.
Electric cars are ideally suited for self-driving prototypes, because they are designed for “drive by wire” control, and their drivetrains have far fewer mechanical systems to be controlled than do vehicles with any kind of combustion engine.
The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is expected to carry a base price of $37,500 before incentives and offer an EPA-rated range of 200 miles or more when it goes on sale within a year.
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One of the car’s main missions is likely to blunt the publicity around the future Tesla Model 3, which the electric-car maker says will go into production by the end of 2018.
Roughly 400,000 potential buyers have put down refundable $1,000 deposits for Model 3s they may not receive for several years.
GM, meanwhile, is likely to point to the Bolt EV as an alternative that will actually be available for purchase—and now, it appears, may offer some self-driving capabilities to counter Tesla’s Autopilot option as well.
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