General Motors Teams with Lyft for Self-Driving Bolt Taxi

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2Q 2016 | IN-4092

Customers in an unnamed city will have the ability within a year to opt-in to a self-driving Chevy Bolt/Lyft taxi. The effort is supported by Cruise Automation, General Motors’ autonomous vehicle acquisition. This is a concerted move to compete with Silicon Valley.

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The OEM Empire Strikes Back


General Motors (GM) continues to invest in advanced automotive technology and strategic industry partnerships. Their upcoming Chevy Bolt will soundly beat the Telsa 3 to market in extended range EV’s.  GM invested $500 million in Lyft, which it is now leveraging, along with the acquisition of Cruise Automation for a reported $1 billion+ price tag, to bring self-driving Bolt taxis to market using Lyft’s reach and app.

This can be considered a response to the threat of not only Tesla, but Google (who just announced a partnership with FCA) and potentially Apple.  It pits Silicon Valley fanboys and girls vs. car-centric Detroit.  The companies are creating a prototype app to allow Lyft customers in the unnamed location to select if they want an autonomous Bolt.  Initial rides will include a driver prepared to take over, as well as access to GM's OnStar as a contingency.

Are Regulators Ready?


Although Google has been testing self-driving vehicles for some time, the emergence of multiple plans for public road usage of driverless cars within the year appears to be moving at warp speed vs. the 2020 timeframe expected by others, including Uber. 

Legislation currently varies by state in the US, with only 16 out of 50 states with legislation at least introduced as of 2015. The United States Transportation Secretary introduced an update in January that modernizes the NHTSA’s initial policy for autonomous cars. This came with almost $4 billion over 10 years to fast-track advancements and implementation of safe vehicle automation.

However, Senators Edward J. Markey and Richard Blumenthal introduced legislation last year to create federal standards to secure vehicles and protect an owner’s privacy, after a survey of 16 automotive companies exposed significant issues securing connected cars against hackers. Only two of the 16 had established proficiency to identify and counter a hacking incident in real time.  Per the senators, “Rushing to roll out the next big thing, automakers have left cars unlocked to hackers and data-trackers.”

Seeing is Believing


Despite its traditional background, GM has made a number of other moves within its own fleet recently. They are including Wi-Fi in many Buick, Cadillac, GMC, and Chevy vehicles, utilizing AT&T 4G, as well as adding Super Cruise to the 2017 Model Year Cadillac CT6.  General Motors also created Maven for on-demand car-sharing, which recently rolled out in a pilot in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is expected to scale out to other US cities this year.

GM declared last year that it will invest $245 million in a “new vehicle program” where the Chevy Bolt will be produced, but the vehicle will not be expected for another three to four years.  However, GM is hiring 300 positions, as well as developing a new manufacturing line for this covert vehicle said to be “unlike any in the plant’s 32-year history.”  This is just a part of the $5.4 billion that General Motors is investing in operations through 2018.

Only time will tell if the auto-first, tech-enabled companies with a traditional perception can compete with tech-first, auto-enabled cult followings.  The ability to scale will also be a factor as companies like Tesla continue to battle delays including Model X delivery commits for Q1.  The dealer network can be a blessing or a curse, allowing Tesla to take orders quickly for its upcoming Model 3, but potentially leading to challenges for maintenance as the fleets age and scale grows.