According to a report today from The Wall Street Journal, GM and Lyft are partnering to test a fleet of self-driving electric taxis sometime within the next year in an undisclosed city. The pilot will reportedly take advantage of GM’s Chevrolet Bolt, a speedy compact crossover all-electric that we took for a test drive earlier this year…
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This move comes as Google’s self-driving car program expanded recently thanks to a partnership with Fiat Chrysler, and Tesla prepares to begin production of its all-electric Model 3 (which has surpassed 400,000 reservations). It’s particularly a bold move to stay in the game with Lyft’s most direct competitor, Uber, which reportedly placed an order for 100,000 autonomous Mercedes S-Class sedans valued at around $11 billion earlier this year.
General Motors Co. and Lyft Inc. within a year will begin testing a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric taxis on public roads, a move central to the companies’ joint efforts to challenge Silicon Valley giants in the battle to reshape the auto industry.
The plan is being hatched a few months after GM invested $500 million in Lyft, a ride-hailing company whose services rival Uber Technologies Inc. The program will rely on technology being acquired as part of GM’s separate $1 billion planned purchase of San Francisco-based Cruise Automation Inc., a developer of autonomous-driving technology.
Details of this plan are still “being worked out,” according to the report, but it is said to give customers “the opportunity to opt in or out of the pilot when hailing a Lyft car from the company’s mobile app.” There’s no word on where the program will take place, with WSJ saying it will be “in a yet-to-be disclosed city.” Lyft is said to be starting the program with drivers in the front seat, but that — assuming legal hurdles can be navigated — human drivers will eventually be out of a job.
As of now, WSJ says that Lyft has a prototype application in the works that gives customers the simple option of going with an autonomous car over a human-driven one. The report says that the app would offer a GM OnStar assistant “for questions or to aid the rider,” and also gives riders controls for complete human guidance over when the ride begins and ends. Hopefully we’ll get to see it for ourselves sometime within the year.