The autonomous Chevy Bolt may be the first high volume self driving production car, beating the Tesla Model 3 to market by as much as a year. GM CEO Mary Barra announced Thursday, December 15 that the autonomous Chevy Bolt will be built at the same Orion Township assembly plant where the regular Bolt and the Chevy Spark are manufactured.
“Revolutionizing transportation for our customers while improving safety on roads is the goal of our autonomous vehicle technology, and today’s announcement gets us one step closer to making this vision a reality,” Barra said in a statement. “Our autonomous technology will be reliable and safe, as customers have come to expect from any of our vehicles.”
Workers at the Orion plant will add the technology needed to make the cars capable of autonomous driving. That includes installing radar, laser sensors, and cameras in addition to the computer to manage the input and the mechanical systems needed to accelerate, steer, and stop the cars. These new cars undergo testing in Michigan and will be included in the self driving test fleets already in operation in San Francisco and Scottsdale.
“We expect that GM will become the first high-volume auto manufacturer to build fully autonomous vehicles in a mass-production assembly plant,” Barra said in a speech at GM’s headquarters. “High volume” may be debatable. Tesla expects to build 500,000 cars a year by 2018 and every one of them will be capable of full Level 5 autonomous driving. Chevy only is only planning to sell 30,000 Bolts a year and very few of them will be autonomous ready. Hopefully the production cars will not have the same roof mounted sensor array, which looks like something from the old TV show Lost In Space.
“The challenge is for consumers to believe one of the world’s largest manufacturers can design and innovate such technology,” said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “Hopefully being early to on-road testing will convey that yes, they can and are innovating.”
Just last week, Michigan passed a new law allowing for the testing of autonomous vehicles on public roads there. Manufacturers are also permitted to sell self driving cars to customers for use on public roadways. That puts Michigan at the forefront of US states. No other jurisdiction currently permits the sale of autonomous vehicles to the public.
Autonomous testing in San Francisco is not going entirely to plan. The City by the Bay gave permission to Uber on Wednesday to begin testing its self driving cars. On Thursday, it revoked that permission after one of Uber’s test cars ran a red light even though there was a human driver behind the wheel. In a separate incident, a San Francisco resident photographed another Uber car at a dead stop in the middle of an intersection, apparently confused about what it should do next. Upon further review, perhaps the phrase “dead stop” is not the best choice of words.
Source: CNN Money Photo credit: GM