General Motors seems determined not to get sidelined by the recent flurry of announcements in the self-driving car category such as those issued by Waymo and Uber.
GM's Chairman and CEO Mary Barra presided a rare press conference last Dec. 15 to declare that GM's autonomous vehicle called Chevrolet Bolt is now prowling the streets of southeast Michigan.
Fleet of self-driving Bolts have already been unleashed in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona. Like other fully autonomous vehicles such as the UberX, the Bolt vehicles are getting tested and monitored while learning the lay of a specific's city's streetscape.
Autonomous Vehicle Prototype
The press event was held at GM's headquarters in Detroit where Barra touted Michigan's role in the autonomous vehicle development. She pointed out that the first generation Bolt EV will be manufactured at the state's Orion Assembly Plant.
Barra also noted that GM will be the first mainstream automaker that will build a fully autonomous vehicle prototype in an assembly plant. GM's initiative could prove beneficial for Michigan because the EV and self-driving car makers have so far chosen California and a number of other states due to their favorable regulatory environment.
Bolt's trial near GM's facilities came after Michigan passed a law detailing the parameters that pave the way for the safe testing of driverless vehicles in the state. The test will expand to Detroit in the coming months.
"By adding Michigan to our real-world testing program, we're ensuring that our AVs can operate safely across a wide range of road, weather and climate conditions, from desert heat to Great Lakes snow to crowded city streets," Barra said. "This is necessary to make certain our AVs meet the same strict standards for safety and quality that we've been building into traditional vehicles for generations."
The extreme weather condition in Michigan this winter is said to have pleased GM engineers who are eager to test the Bolt in challenging conditions.
GM, China And Donald Trump
The expansion of Bolt's testing and Barra's announcement could also have been triggered by recent developments in China. A Chinese high-ranking official has just accused an unidentified American automaker of price-fixing. This was widely reported in the China Daily, which is an official media outfit.
Observers believe that the price-fixing charge alludes to GM and the reference is aimed as a warning for president-elect Donald Trump not to further aggravate American relationship with China.
China is considered as the largest market for GM, which also includes the United States. After the Chinese pronouncement, investors have sold down shares and this is also the case for Ford Motor Co.