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GM plans 2019 launch of self-driving cars in U.S.

The Associated Press

A self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV at GM’s Orion Assembly plant in Lake Orion, Mich., in June

Reuters SAN FRANCISCO/DETROIT (Reuters) — General Motors Co. laid out its vision for self-driving vehicles on Thursday, telling investors it planned a commercial launch of fleets of fully autonomous robo-taxis in multiple dense urban environments in 2019, in a challenge to rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo.

Underscoring the potential opportunity ahead, GM President Dan Ammann told investors the lifetime revenue generation of one of its self-driving cars could eventually be in the “several hundred thousands of dollars.” That compares with the $30,000 on average that GM collects today for one of its vehicles, mostly derived from the initial sale.

The No. 1 U.S. 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 $1 billion acquisition of startup Cruise Automation in early 2016 that provided a toehold in the nascent industry.

Automakers and rivals such as Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc. have poured billions into the competitive industry, with each player hoping to gain first-mover advantage. Robo-taxi services are seen as the main use for most self-driving vehicles, including GM’s Chevrolet Bolt.

“If we continue on our current rate of change we will be ready to deploy this technology, in large scale, in the most complex environments, in 2019,” Ammann said on a conference call.

Safety, Ammann said, will ultimately be the deciding factor on when to take the driver out of the car.

GM has enjoyed a recent surge in its share price, as investors bet on its plans for self-driving and electric cars, although the company’s profit is driven entirely by demand for trucks and SUVs in North America, and its growing sales in China.

GM shares were down 1.7 percent at $43.05 on Thursday afternoon.

Until now, GM has said autonomous vehicles were a big part of its future but did not give many details. Now, it has outlined more broadly its strategy, in which self-driving Bolts could be manufactured at scale at GM’s existing plants, driving down costs, and rapidly deployed in major metropolitan markets through a ride service to disrupt incumbents.Speech

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