FILE PHOTO — General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra announces that Chevrolet will begin testing a fleet of Bolt autonomous vehicles in Michigan during a news conference in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo
General Motors Co plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, beginning in 2018, two sources familiar with the automaker’s plans said this week.
It is expected to be the largest such test of fully autonomous vehicles by any major automaker before 2020, when several companies have said they plan to begin building and deploying such vehicles in higher volumes. Alphabet Inc’s Waymo subsidiary, in comparison, is currently testing about 60 self-driving prototypes in four states.
Most of the specially equipped versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle will be used by San Francisco-based Lyft, which will test them in its ride-sharing fleet in several states, one of the sources said. GM has no immediate plans to sell the Bolt AV to individual customers, according to the source.
The sources spoke only on condition of anonymity because GM has not announced its plans yet.
GM executives have said in interviews and investor presentations during the past year they intend to mass-produce autonomous vehicles and deploy them in ride services fleets. However, GM officials have not revealed details of the scale of production, or the timing of the deployment of those vehicles.
In a statement on Friday, GM said: “We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think.”
Lyft declined to comment.
GM’s crosstown rival Ford Motor Co has said it plans to begin building its first self-driving vehicles at a suburban Detroit plant in late 2020, for deployment in on-demand ride sharing fleets in 2021. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is providing a small number of Chrysler Pacifica minivans to Waymo, which is converting them for self-driving tests.
GM’s Maven car sharing operation likely will be involved with Lyft in developing a commercial ride sharing business around self-driving vehicles such as the Bolt AV, GM executive Mike Ableson told Reuters in a November interview.
“If you assume the cost of these autonomous vehicles, the very early ones, will be six figures, there aren’t very many retail customers that are willing to go out and spend that kind of money,” Ableson said. “But even at that sort of cost, with a ride sharing platform, you can build a business.”
Chief Executive Mary Barra in mid-December said GM would begin building a fully autonomous version of the Bolt EV in early 2017 at its Orion Township plant north of Detroit.
GM is testing about 40 Bolt AVs in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona, and plans to extend testing this year to Detroit, the automaker said in December.
The future of the driverless car is much closer than people realize, Elon Musk reportedly said in a speech in Dubai Monday. That’s the good news. The bad news, he points out, is that there will be a steep price to pay for the “great convenience.”
‘There are many people whose jobs are to drive. In fact, I think it might be the single largest employer of people. So we need to figure out new roles for what do those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick.’
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO, according to CNBC, said the disruption will take place within about 20 years and will ultimately leave up to 15% of the global population without jobs.
Musk also touched on one of his favorite topics: artificial intelligence. Specifically, he spoke of humans eventually merging with machines, like something out of a “Terminator” movie.
“Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence,” Musk told the audience. “It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output. He explained that computers can communicate at “a trillion bits per second,” while humans can do about 10 bits per second.
“Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem,” Musk said.
Google is perfecting its self-driving cars specifically to help elderly individuals get around. Watch how a few react to riding in one for the first time!
Times have changed, that’s a given. But take a moment to consider just how drastically different life is for those who were born in the 1920’s and 1930’s compared to how it is today.
In the past, hover boards, computers, and even the internet must have seemed like outlandish, far-fetched ideas. Yet today, most are manifested realities many of us take for granted.
Now, consider self-driving cars. Even a decade ago, one might have speculated that the population would have to wait a handful of years before even a prototype was invented – that’s no longer the case.
In fact, Google has already released a self-driving car and has vowed to perfect the models to specifically help elderly individuals get around without hassle. Of course, the rest of the population will likely be transported by self-driving vehicles within the next decade, but that’s another story…
Recently, the chief executive of Google’s self-driving car program, John Krafcik, enlisted his 97-year-old mom, Marie, to ride in one of the company’s self-driving units. BuzzFeed News was also invited, therefore, two more individuals over the age of 60 also tagged along: John Hickman, 73, and Barry Barron, 65.
As you can view in the video below, the adventure was considered to be something of an epic ordeal by all involved:
“There are so many people with some level of disability who don’t have driver’s licenses, and really don’t have the opportunity for the personal mobility that we all take for granted. That’s one of the great benefits of self-driving cars. We can get all those folks from where they are to where they want to be.”
Postdoctoral Fellow in Aeromechanics, University of Texas at Austin
Leon Vanstone does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
The Conversation is funded by Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Knight Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Alfred P Sloan Foundation, Rita Allen Foundation and the Simons Foundation. Our global publishing platform is funded by Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
The implications of driverless cars are huge because the transportation industry is huge, employing almost five million people in the U.S. alone. Suddenly you don’t need drivers for taxis, buses, garbage trucks, deliveries, you name it. Not just cars either – boats, planes, anything that moves could be completely automated. Once this process begins, it’s likely to happen quickly, because there’s an incredible amount of money to be saved this way. What happened to the horses when we didn’t need them to pull carts?
Drivers are vital to our transport system today
The people who today drive these vehicles are currently some of the most valuable to society. Modern life would grind to a halt if they all suddenly disappeared. Together, these millions of people move food to our supermarkets, take garbage from our houses and take our children to school. What happens to all those people, who through no fault of their own, find themselves unemployed with a skill set society no longer wants or needs?
Obviously, jobs have disappeared from society before: how many people are blacksmiths, cobblers or chimney sweeps? Entire professions have faded from society before with little effect, so why care now?
Imagine you were alive hundreds of thousands of years ago. The average life expectancy is low. Technology is primitive. Food is scarce. Wi-Fi signal is beyond terrible. You spend most of your time foraging for food, and what little spare time you have during daylight hours is spent essentially doing science. Now this isn’t very advanced science – I’m talking about bashing rocks together, discovering fire, making spears – but none the less these explorations are science and progress is slow.
Now imagine you went back just a thousand years. You are now a peasant, along with almost everyone else. The average life expectancy is still low. You spend most of your time growing enough food so a few very privileged people don’t have to farm at all. As a whole, society has a little more free time to invent and discover. Progress is faster but not that fast. Life for the peasants still stinks. Wi-Fi signal is still terrible.
Now you are you. Your average life expectancy is higher than ever before. You are either part of the 1.5 percent of American society that does all the farming for everyone else or you’re part of the 98.5 percent that does other things. Either way your life probably doesn’t stink, Wi-Fi coverage is phenomenally better and you essentially live like royalty (at least in comparison to the other two versions of you). So what changed?
When the transition happens too fast
Farmers were replaced by machinery and they became manufacturers. Manufacturers were replaced by automated assembly lines and they went on to become computer engineers. The more people in a society who can be free to think, create and do things that don’t involve sustaining that society (like farming or moving things), the more people you have available to be artists, scientists and entrepreneurs. This leads to more discoveries, which in turn, frees more people to think and so on. Humanity has been doing this for millennia.
But this process of replacing one occupation with another has always been slow. Society needs time to adjust to a change in required skill sets. In truth, few farmers really retrain as manufacturers and few manufacturers go on to become computer engineers. It is much more likely to be the next generation that trains into the new skill set modern society requires. The farmers’ children go on to be manufacturers and the manufacturers’ children become computer scientists. But at some point, the rate of change may happen quicker than children take to grow up. At some point, the manufacturer has to retrain as a computer engineer… or confront a life with no livelihood.
From a social view point, having millions more people free to do more complex tasks is good. It leaves more people to be artists and scientists and entrepreneurs in much the same way reducing the number of farmers and manufacturers did.
We need to decide now what we will do about those drivers displaced in the name of progress because what we do now will set a precedent. A precedent for what society does with the rest of us when technology comes for our jobs. How long before we have to retrain the computer scientists? What will their children want to be?