GM takes on the techies
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Move that tiny self-driving pod out of the way. That might as well have been the message from General Motors to Google, Apple and anyone else with designs on dominating the market for autonomous cars.
The 107-year-old carmaker told Wall St analysts that it intends to lead, no matter what form of transport people pick in the future.
GM already has millions of cars on the road that are connected to the internet, and it has young engineers who are helping to develop new technology that will lead to autonomous driving, said product development chief Mark Reuss.
Google has been testing electric self-driving pods in and around its headquarters in Mountain View, California, while denying that it wants to get into the car-building business. its 48 robot cars have logged more than 3 million kilometres on private tracks, highways and city streets.
Apple has reportedly been testing its own vehicles, as have vehicle parts makers and German and Japanese carmakers. Uber taxi service has a lab in Pittsburgh working on the technology.
But GM has now tried to even the score, announcing it will run a fleet of self-driving, plug-in petrol-electric hybrid Chevrolet Volts on its giant technical centre in Detroit by late next year.
The centre is undergoing a $US1 billion ($NZ1.55 billion) renovation, and GM will learn from the app-summoned cars as they transport employees around the massive construction project.
GM and partners are working to develop better sensor technology that can handle heavy fog or ice patches, as well as artificial intelligence that can predict driver behaviour and prepare for real-world problems.
The company predicted a 31 per cent reduction in battery cell costs for electric cars that could speed price reductions and make the cars more competitive with internal combustion engines.
GM sells the Volt, which can go about 65km on battery power before a petrol generator kicks in. It has promised to roll out the Bolt, a $US40,000 ($NZ62,000) fully electric car with a 320km range, late next year.
The company also revealed a car-sharing programme that allows residents of a 479-home luxury apartment building in New York to reserve SUVs and park them in any of 200 garages in Manhattan, and plans a car-sharing service in an unidentified US city early next year.