General Motors announced this week that it has finished production on a fleet of 130 Chevrolet Bolt EV test vehicles featuring the latest generation of self-driving technology.
The fleet was completed at the Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township, Michigan. The cars began rolling off the line in January, joining 50 existing vehicles from plants in San Francisco and Scottsdale, as well as metropolitan Detroit.
GM worked on the cars in collaboration with Cruise Automation, which it acquired for $1 billion in September 2016.
This is a breakthrough, according to GM, because the company is the first to “assemble self-driving test vehicles in a mass-production facility.”
What They’re Saying
“This production milestone brings us one step closer to making our vision of personal mobility a reality,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement issued by the company.
“Expansion of our real-world test fleet will help ensure that our self-driving vehicles meet the same strict standards for safety and quality that we build into all of our vehicles.”
“To achieve what we want from self-driving cars, we must deploy them at scale,” Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt said.
“By developing the next-generation self-driving platform in San Francisco and manufacturing these cars in Michigan, we are creating the safest and most consistent conditions to bring our cars to the most challenging urban roads that we can find.”
Self-driving and GM: A history
General Motors’ involvement in self-driving cars goes all the way back to the 1930s, when GM sponsored an automated guided car as part of Norman Bel Geddes’s Futurama exhibit in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.
In the 1950s, GM worked with RCA Labs on a wire-controlled miniature car, as well as the experimental firebird car.
Years later, in the 1990s, GM was a leading force behind the National Automated Highway System Consortium (NAHSC), part of an effort to pave the way for an autonomous highway system.
In the new century, GM again began developing self-driving cars, competing with the likes of Apple and Google in addition to rival automakers.
What’s Next for Self Driving at GM
When will we see GM’s self-driving cars on the road, in non-testing settings? That’s unclear. But what is clear is that GM sees quite a future in the technology. In fact, according to the Detroit Free Press, the company is planning to hire over than 1,000 employees, including engineers, for Cruise Automation.