GM touts worthwhile driverless fleets by 2019

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Dan Ammann, president of GM, told investors on December 30 that the potential revenue from a single autonomous vehicle working as a taxi is far greater than that of comparable cars sold by GM today. Once they're on the road, the vehicles' computers will constantly learn and improve.

"Looking for a clear path" screens facing the driver and passengers read several times during the trip, when the auto stopped next to some traffic cones or behind double-parked vehicles. Waymo, formerly a Google company and now operated by Google parent Alphabet, also expects to offer fully autonomous driving by the start of the next decade, along with Uber and Tesla. The Bolt's human backup driver disengaged the system and took the wheel after the vehicle waited for more than a minute behind the truck where construction workers ordered lunch. An employee in the back seat will be able to stop the vehicle by pushing a button but won't be able to steer the vehicle.

Delphi, an automotive supplier, has said it expects commercial vehicles to be using its autonomous system in limited areas in 2019. Take away driver costs and the rates could drop to below $1 a mile, says Kyle Vogt, chief executive officer of Cruise Automation, the San Francisco-based unit that develops the software for GM's self-driving cars. Delphi recently bought autonomous software startup NuTonomy and would also partner with BMW AG, chipmaker Intel Corp and camera and visual recognition software maker Mobileye.

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In short, GM thinks it can make billions of dollars building and operating a fleet of self-driving cars, taking on Uber, Lyft, taxis and other competitors in the rapidly growing ride-hailing business.

GM hasn't yet said whether it will operate the service itself or pair up with the likes of Uber or Lyft, which it invested $500 million in a year ago. However this announcement helps to solidify the industry speculation that autonomous vehicles will eventually be the sole vessels for ride-hailing services - and, if done strategically, automakers like GM can highly profit from the shift.

The No. 1 USA automaker - which views electric and autonomous vehicles as the keystones of future transport - has been focused on rolling out self-driving cars since its estimated $US1 billion ($F2b) acquisition of startup Cruise Automation in early 2016 that provided a toehold in the nascent industry.