Autonomous cars closer than we think

GM expects to launch autonomous ride-sharing within 2 years

"If we continue on our current rate of change, we will be ready to deploy this technology, in large scale, in the most complex environments, in 2019", said Ammann on a conference call. Once they're on the road, the vehicles' computers will constantly learn and improve.

GM has enjoyed a recent surge in its share price, as investors bet on its plans for self-driving and electric cars, although the company's profit is driven entirely by demand for trucks and SUVs in North America, and its growing sales in China.

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Delphi, an automotive supplier, has said it expects commercial vehicles to be using its autonomous system in limited areas in 2019.

Waymo, which is the self-driving vehicle spinoff of Google, was the first company to take the driver from the seat on public roadways in early November. Delphi recently bought autonomous software startup NuTonomy and would also partner with BMW AG, chipmaker Intel Corp and camera and visual recognition software maker Mobileye.

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The search for the San Juan has employed some of the latest technology in one of the largest efforts of its kind. During the $12 million retrofitting, the vessel was cut in half and had its engines and batteries replaced.

Its Cruise Automation unit is testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles with human backup drivers in San Francisco, Detroit and Phoenix, and has plans to test in Manhattan next year. Granted, Cruise has operated a pilot ride-sharing program for its employees in San Francisco for the past few months.

This, in the timelines of how quickly automaker usually move, is surprisingly soon, but GM President Dan Ammann seemed confident, adding that with GM's vertically-integrated infrastructure for making self-driving cars, the General is able to move much faster than others in this area. In the slides, GM estimates the autonomous vehicles will be used for commercial purposes. By getting out there first, GM hopes to ride a rapid cost and technology improvement curve that will leave the competition far behind....

GM, which invested $500 million in Lyft in 2016, says it sees a "clear path" to reducing the cost-per-mile of ride-sharing services to under $1 by 2025.

The No. 1 United States automaker - which views electric and autonomous vehicles as the keystones of future transport - has been focused on rolling out self-driving cars since its estimated $US1 billion ($F2b) acquisition of startup Cruise Automation in early 2016 that provided a toehold in the nascent industry. The stock slipped 0.8 percent to $43.44 as of 12:20 p.m. Thursday in NY.

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