Ready or not, here comes the new generation of taxis. General Motors Co. and Lyft Inc. are making a joint effort to challenge Silicon Valley giants in the action to transform the auto industry. Within a year, GM and Lyft will be testing an army of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric taxis on public roads.
The plan began a couple of months ago after GM invested $500 million in Lyft, a ride-hailing company that competes against Uber Technologies Inc. The reshaping agenda will rely on the technology being collected as part of GM’s separate $1 billion planned purchase of the San Francisco-based company of autonomous-driving technology, Cruise Automation Inc.
Alphabet Inc.’s, Google autonomous car program and Uber’s ride-sharing business, as well as Tesla Motors Inc’s electric cars, are the developments born in Silicon Valley that have past numerous global automakers. GM’s efforts to bring together recent big-dollar investments is a response to the tech industry efforts to displaces the conventional automakers.
The autonomous taxi testing program is still working out the details including the city that has not yet been decided, according to a Lyft executive. Customers will be able to choose to opt in or out of the pilot when signaling for a Lyft car from the company’s mobile application.
GM intends for Lyft’s car of choice for their cars and fleet of driverless cars to be the electric Bolt, which will launch later this year. Currently, Lyft and the Detroit auto giant rents the Chevy Equinox to drivers needing vehicles in Chicago. The program will spread to more cities and will rely on Bolts, deemed by GM executives to be an ideal fit for drivers who want to lower operating costs and needing more space, in the future instead of the Equinox.
According to executives at Uber and Lyft, the biggest obstacle to their success has been
navigating regulations that administer the use of autonomous vehicles and liabilities. To ease the transition between a driver and driverless vehicles, Lyft will have drivers in the autonomous cars ready to intervene it anything is to happen unexpectedly.
“We will want to vet the autonomous tech between Cruise, GM and ourselves and slowly introduce this into markets,” Lyft’s product director, Taggart Matthiesen said in an interview. That will “ensure that cities would have full understanding of what we are trying to do here.”
Lyft has created a prototype smartphone application that will display to the customers the options of being picked up by an autonomous car. If a problem occurs doing the ride, there is also an option to contact GM OnStar assistant for questions to aid the rider as well as allowing the passengers to tell the car when to “go” and when the rider does not need the car’s service anymore, and they can leave.
The company is still working out issues with the prototype and the trust of the autonomous
vehicle. However, whenever the kinks are straightened out, the ride home will be a leading-edge experience.
Lauren Spiler is a freelance journalist based in Athens, Georgia, but most call her Spiler.