The Chevy Bolt will be General Motors first fully autonomous car when it brings a self-driver to the market in the future.

General Motors Co. is steadily ramping up its spending on autonomous vehicles, expecting to lay out $600 million this year alone on its self-driving vehicle efforts.

The total is four times what it spent last year, Chuck Stevens, GM chief financial officer, said during a recent presentation to financial automation.

Stevens said the GM’s effort is being led by Cruise Automation, which GM paid $1 billion for last year. GM also has moved to ensure that Cruise can maintain a start-up culture to meet the rapidly evolving move into automated driving,

GM, along with other traditional automakers such as Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Renault-Nissan, is now considered one of the leaders in self-driving vehicles. In fact, the automaker finished second behind the aforementioned Ford in a recent study by Navigant Research that ranked the makers on their leadership in the autonomous arena.

The company announced yesterday it plans to launch its first semi-autonomous system, the Cadillac Super Drive, in the 2018 Cadillac CT6. GM’s first fully self-driving car coming to market will be a version of the electric Chevrolet Bolt EV, Stevens re-iterated during his presentation.

(Caddy going hands-free in 2018 launch of Super Cruise. Click Herefor the story.)

An autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EV shown running at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.

Stevens also emphasized that Cruise is now a GM subsidiary that has been integrated into GM’s big-company structure so its engineers are free to operate separately and independently. It will also be a separate business unit long term and in the future could report its own earnings, he added.

Cruise’s CEO and co-founder, Kyle Vogt, has “full responsibility for the operational and financial performance of our autonomous vehicle business,” Stevens said.

Cruise Automation — has a budget and it has been given both short- and long-term financial targets, and it’s monitored “at the highest levels of the organization by Mary, Dan and myself on a very frequent basis,” he added.

(For more on the new Navigant study, Click Here.)

The support for Cruise’s research will reach roughly $150 million per quarter going forward in 2017, Stevens added. GM expects to spend about $150 million per quarter on its self-driving effort in 2017, compared to the $150 million GM spent on engineering and research in 2016, Stevens said.

The ramp up in GM’s spending underscores the growing importance that the development of self-driving vehicles. Last week, Anthony Foxx, the former Secretary of Transportation, said last week that automated vehicles could start showing up on some streets within five years.

The $600 million level could also could continue into 2018, Stevens said. The spending does not cover the capital costs of developing an all-new vehicle for self-driving, because GM is already producing the vehicle in question: It’s the Chevrolet Bolt EV.

(Waymo and Bosch team up to put driverless robo-cabs on the road by 2021. Click Here for more.)

Stevens also re-iterated that GM expects the first self-driving cars will be built for car-sharing and ride-hailing businesses, not for retail buyers.

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