As autonomous vehicle technology becomes increasingly popular among automakers, General Motors President Dan Ammann urges more local and state governments to allow for testing of the vehicles on public streets. Ammann said doing so is the only way for automakers to ensure that the vehicles will be ready for public use.
“To make autonomous vehicles the best they can be and the safest they can be, we really need to be testing on public streets,” Ammann said. “It can be limited to a geo-fenced area, but it needs to be public streets in a real-world environment.”
The development of autonomous vehicles is in the interest of the public, offering numerous safety and quality of life benefits, Ammann said.
The automaker has invested heavily in the development of autonomous vehicles. The most notable investment is the purchase of the autonomous tech startup, Cruise Automation, last year, for a reported $1 billion. GM has also been testing self-driving Bolt electric vehicles, using Cruise technology, in California, Michigan and Arizona.
The company has also invested in Lyft Inc. and has launched the Maven and Cadillac Book vehicle-sharing services.
“At some point — it’s going to be sooner than people think — we will deploy our electric vehicles, still with a backup driver, into a ride-share fleet,” Ammann said. “We will use that fleet to accumulate all the data we need to convince ourselves and regulators that we are ready to go driverless.”
However, their most profitable business remains in manufacturing and selling vehicles such as pickups, SUV’s and crossovers. Despite the company’s continued investment into ride-sharing services and autonomous vehicles, the manufacturing and selling side of the company will not stop, Ammann said.
“As the part of the business that makes most of our money remains intact, it will help us to pursue other areas that will become increasingly important in the future,” Ammann said. “We’ve created this really interesting intersection between ride share, deep software capability and massive industrial manufacturing scale and the know-how to create cars.”
GM will not wait on infrastructure investments to deploy their autonomous vehicles, Ammann said.
“The approach that we’ve taken is, actually, we can’t wait for that,” Ammann said. “We need to make sure that the technology is able to work and be deployed in the current environment so that we’re not dependent upon some change or investment in infrastructure in order to do what we want to do here.”
Ammann noted that the company will continue investing moving forward.