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GM pursues autonomous ride-share as 'biggest business opportunity since Internet'

04 December 2017

The company said vehicles will not have human backup drivers.

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.

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. GM believes it's too early to discuss branding, but the first cars will likely be versions of the Chevy Bolt EVs Cruise is testing now.

"The return on invested capital will be significantly higher than what we're seeing in the core business", said Stevens.

GM said it is important to be first to get the self-driving electric vehicles on the road to allow quick improvement of driver experience to give the company a competitive advantage.

More GM Future: What is coming standard on the new Silverado? Waymo, the autonomous auto unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., earlier this month said it's about to start chauffeuring people in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV-supplied minivans without safety drivers manning the steering wheel. Granted, Cruise has operated a pilot ride-sharing program for its employees in San Francisco for the past few months.

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GM says operating its self-driving cars will cost 40 percent less per mile than other ride-hailing firms that have to pay drivers.

German automaker Daimler AG has teamed up with supplier Bosch to develop autonomous taxis by 2020. While Google has been experimenting with driverless vehicles since 2009, GM only secured a toehold in the industry when it acquired startup Cruise Automation for an estimated $1bn in 2016.

GM, like rival automakers and technology leaders including Alphabet Inc, has poured billions into autonomous vehicle research, although fully self-driving cars are a work in progress.

Tesla, which now sells electric cars with some autonomous features, but says they already contain the hardware to one day be fully autonomous, also has its eyes on running a driverless taxi service in the coming years, provided by owners' cars operating while they are at work, asleep or on holiday.

GM stock fell 72 cents to $43.09 at market close Thursday.

GM pursues autonomous ride-share as 'biggest business opportunity since Internet'