General Motors and Cruise Automation revealed that they are ready to mass produce a vehicle that is ready for self-driving capabilities, in the form of a modified version of the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle.
Rivals in the self-driving car race are in various stages of development, with Alphabet's self-driving unit Waymo tapping Avis to manage its self-driving fleet, Apple renting SUVs to start testing its autonomous driving technology, and Audi to launch the 2018 Audi A8 as the first production car with level 3 autonomy. General Motors, however, now has a significant lead.
GM, Cruise Launch Self-Driving Chevrolet Bolt Into Mass Production
General Motors acquired Cruise Automation early last year with the goal of accelerating its development of autonomous vehicle technology. Just over a year later, General Motors and Cruise Automation have made enough progress to announce the launch of mass production of self-driving vehicles.
Cruise has focused on rapidly deploying self-driving cars at scale to drive down costs and improve the capabilities of the technology, which in turn would allow the autonomous vehicles to be deployed at an even larger scale. To achieve this, manufacturing vehicles that are able to run the self-driving technology is the first step, and so GM and Cruise have unveiled the first mass-producible car in the world that is designed to go driverless.
"This isn't just a concept design — it has airbags, crumple zones, and comfortable seats," noted Cruise founder and CEO Kyle Vogt in a Medium post, adding that the vehicles will be assembled in a high-volume plant that can produce hundreds of thousands of vehicles annually.
Are The Self-Driving Cars Ready?
However, while General Motors and Cruise unveiled modified Chevrolet Bolt units as the first self-driving car for mass production, that does not mean that customers will be able to fully enjoy autonomous driving technology any time soon.
The self-driving Chevrolet Bolt is the third generation of Cruise's autonomous driving technology, and it meets the safety and redundancy requirements that it believes are needed for operating without a human behind the wheel. However, the vehicles will only become truly self-driving when the software is ready, and according to General Motors VP of Autonomous Technology and Vehicle Execution Doug Parks, there remains a lot of work to be done before that happens.
Launching self-driving-capable vehicles into mass production does not mean that customers can go driverless tomorrow, but this is the closest that the industry has come to a wide rollout of a technology that will change the way we travel in the future.