GM to start testing self-driving cars on public roads in Detroit

Get ready, Detroit. Self-driving cars will be hitting your streets next.

General Motors on Thursday announced the company will “immediately” begin testing its autonomous vehicles in Detroit, Michigan, and will start producing self-driving Chevy Bolt EVs at the city’s Orion Township assembly plant early next year. GM says that makes it the first high-volume auto maker to build fully autonomous vehicles in a mass-production assembly plant.

“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,” GM CEO Mary Barra wrote in a news release. “Our autonomous technology will be reliable and safe, as customers have come to expect from any of our vehicles.”

The move comes after Michigan passed a set of bills friendly to the autonomous vehicle industry, setting the state up to compete with Silicon Valley to be the country’s self-driving car hot spot. The Michigan legislation, which Fortune called “the most permissive self-driving car laws in the country,” allows the testing of autonomous vehicles without drivers, steering wheels or pedals. That may make Michigan more attractive to automakers than California, which requires a human driver in the car.

California’s rules have led to tension between regulators and Uber this week, when Uber refused to seek a permit to test its self-driving cars on San Francisco streets. The ride-hailing startup argues that “complex rules and requirements could have the unintended consequence of slowing innovation.”

GM has been testing its self-driving cars in San Francisco (with a state permit) and Scottsdale, Arizona since June.

“By adding Michigan to our real-world testing program, we’re ensuring that our AVs can operate safely across a wide range of road, weather and climate conditions, from desert heat to Great Lakes snow to crowded city streets,” Barra wrote in a LinkedIn post. “This is necessary to make certain our AVs meet the same strict standards for safety and quality that we’ve been building into traditional vehicles for generations.”

GM has been ramping up its self-driving car efforts this year. In January the company launched a new autonomous vehicle engineering team and announced a $500 million investment in Lyft to develop a network of on-demand self-driving cars. In March GM announced it had acquired self-driving car startup Cruise Automation.

Image: Screen shot of GM CEO Mary Barra’s LinkedIn posted announcing a self-driving car testing program in Detroit, Michigan. 


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  • Derek Smith

    I am trying to figure out which has more hype associated with it: autonomous driving or 3D printing. When a car company can get a self driving car from the end of the assembly line and park it on a dealer’s lot without a human involved then I’ll be impressed (load itself on and off car-haulers, trains, ships and park exactly where it needs to be at the dealership, including a show room), but I don’t think I’ll see that in the next 20 years.