Economy, Auto

GM Self-Driving Cars to Be Ready for Ride-Sharing in 2019

A self-driving GM Bolt EVA self-driving GM Bolt EV

General Motors Co. plans to have its self-driving cars ready for a ride-share service within two years as the automaker looks beyond traditional car ownership for new tech-driven sources of revenue.

After spending more than a year putting the pieces in place to launch a robotaxi business, GM said Thursday it expects to have a fleet of self-driving cars in operation in 2019. The sharing service could be run by the automaker or a partner, Bloomberg reported.

The more than a century-old manufacturer is pushing to be a major player in a future robotaxi business at a time when ride-hailing is growing and auto sales in its home market are slowing. GM is trying to position itself to cash in on a potentially lucrative business that could become a major new source of revenue and generate heftier profit margins, especially since going driverless could dramatically reduce costs.

“It’s a big opportunity,” GM President Dan Ammann said in an interview in San Francisco last week. “We think it will change the world.”

Ride-hailing services on the roads now, including those offered by Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc., cost consumers about $2 to $3 a mile, with the companies paying their drivers the equivalent of about three quarters of revenue, GM estimates.

Take away driver costs and the rates could drop to below $1 a mile, said Kyle Vogt, chief executive officer of Cruise Automation, the San Francisco-based unit that develops the software for GM’s self-driving cars.

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