General Motors, the largest US automaker and the third biggest in the world has announced Thursday it would move to implement a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids late next year at its Warren Technical Center campus.
The autonomous test fleet would be for employee use and in addition chief executive officer Mary Barra also said it was expanding its partnership with Japanese rival Honda on fuel-cell research, aiming to bring to the market a hydrogen-powered vehicle around 2020. “We’re working to redefine customer’s choices and the future of mobility,” commented Barra during an encounter with analysts and big investors at the company’s Milford Proving Grounds. “The convergence of rapidly improving technology and changing consumer preferences is creating an inflection point for the transportation industry not seen in decades.” While gazing at the future, GM is also taking care of the present, with senior GM executives and Barra also discussing how the company wants to lower expenses by $5.5 billion at its traditional car and truck business by the end of 2018. They would cut costs by lowering purchasing, manufacturing and administrative expenses.
GM looks keen on taking the autonomous road after investing heavily – alongside other automakers – in systems and features that enhance safety and usability. Now all the traditional carmakers need to jump the gun as technology giants Google and Apple have showed their own projects aimed at disrupting the regular automotive business. GM is also seeing now increased pressure to replace faster its vehicles, with 26 percent of global sales from new or refreshed models introduced over the past 18 months.