General Motors and ride-sharing startup Lyft are teaming up to put a self-driving electric taxis on the road, a move central to GM’s current efforts to challenge Google and Uber in the battle to reshape the US auto industry.
The plan is being launched after GM invested $500 in Lyft, a ride-sharing startup that competes with Uber Technologies. The plan also follows the GM’s acquisition of San Francisco-based Cruise Automation, a developer of autonomous-driving technology. The acquisition was designed to further accelerate GM’s development of self-driving technology.
The newly acquired Cruise Automation will operate as an independent unit under GM’s Autonomous Vehicle Department. The newly formed unit will be based in San Francisco and will be headed by Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of autonomous technology.
The GM-Lyft partnership also involved developing an application that would allow Lyft riders choose an autonomous vehicle. The app also provides rider access to GM OnStar assistant in case of a road accident or trouble. The mobile app is still in development at this point, but it speaks to how the two companies are trying to solve the challenges of trust with an autonomous vehicle.
In addition to the partnership and the Cruise Automation acquisition, GM has also created Maven, the automaker’s personal mobility brand for car-sharing fleets in the US. GM also aims to use Lyft and its massive army of drivers as a primary customer for it GM Bolt, an electric vehicle the company plans to launch this year.
The partnership is directed mostly at challenging Google and Uber, whose efforts have already displaced conventional automakers in the market. Google’s self-driving efforts have already gained a significant lead over conventional automakers and have taken a new turn this month with the announcement of partnerships with Fiat Chrysler.
Uber, whose services rival Lyft, is also working on autonomous vehicles and has its own self-driving research facility in Pittsburg.
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