Report: GM, Lyft to Test Self-Driving Chevrolet Bolt Taxis
You may soon be able to hail a ride from an autonomous EV hatch
General Motors and Lyft will begin testing a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV taxis on public roads, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. Earlier this year, GM invested $500 million in Lyft in hopes of developing an on-demand network of autonomous vehicles, making it the first automaker to make a significant investment in a growing ride-sharing business. The plan, however, is separate from GM's purchase of Cruise Automation, a developer of autonomous driving technology based in San Francisco.
According to a Lyft executive, the testing program details are still being finalized. GM will also use Lyft and its growing pool of drivers as a primary customer for the Bolt. Currently, GM is renting out the Chevrolet Equinox to drivers needing a vehicle in Chicago. However, as the program expands in the future, it will rely more on the Bolt rather than a crossover.
GM and Lyft's efforts are aimed directly at challenging Uber and respond to the tech industry's efforts to displace conventional auto manufacturers. Google, on the other hand, has gained a substantial lead over automakers by testing in California and in other states. Additionally, FCA agreed to supply Google with a fleet of Pacifica minivans to continue their autonomous driving testing.
Lyft and Uber executives have said that one of the biggest hurdles is dealing with the regulations that govern the use of autonomous vehicles and liabilities. Lyft will begin by operating autonomous cars that have a driver behind the wheel ready to intervene at any time; however, it's expected that the driver will eventually be taken out of the picture once the technology matures, and regulations allow for it. "We will want to vet the autonomous tech between Cruise, GM, and ourselves and slowly introduce this into markets," said Taggart Matthiesen, Lyft's product director, in an interview.
Lyft also has a prototype smartphone app that gives its customers the option to be picked up by an autonomous car. The vehicle also has an option to contact GM's OnStar assistance services if the rider has questions or problems have occurred. Additionally, the app can enable the passenger to tell the car when to "go" and when the car can leave after the ride is finished. The ride-sharing company is also working on a program that will make the Bolt available to prospective Lyft drivers since many can't acquire vehicles that are acceptable for taxi customers.
We contacted GM for comment and the company said that it "continues to make progress on our previously announced plans related to an integrated on-demand autonomous network with Lyft. Similarly, we have said the Chevrolet Bolt EV is the ideal platform for ride sharing solutions. We believe electrification blends perfectly with autonomy when it comes to technology integration." However, it has nothing specific to announce at this time with regards to "potential rollout of vehicles and technologies."