Move over Google! The tech giant that uses its California campus as a testing ground for its autonomous vehicle now has company in those types of efforts as General Motors plans to do the same at its Tech Center campus in Michigan.
The automaker plans to roll out a fleet of autonomous 2017 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrids on the site starting next year. Employees will use the vehicles to get around the 326-acre campus in Warren, Michigan, just north of Detroit.
“It really demonstrates a different mindset than what you might expect from the auto industry, really a Silicon Valley mindset,” she told investors and analysts Thursday at GM’s Global Business Conference. “We’re going to step things up. We’re going to experiment, we’re going to get customer input, we’re going to do it in a cost-effective way. If it works, we’re going to scale it.”
Most manufacturers have been playing catch up with the aforementioned tech giant when it comes to autonomous vehicle technology. Google’s test vehicles, which look like a cross between a football helmet and a marshmallow, have more than 1 million test miles logged.
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For GM, the move is an attempt to mirror real-world testing, albeit in a closed environment. The company’s technical center is a closed campus so who can gain entry to the site is restricted. The Volts will be limited to just 25 mph, according to GM executives.
Employees will be limited on where they can go in the vehicles. They’ll use a smart phone app to book a ride in one of the vehicles. Once they get in the car, they can select their destination on the vehicles infotainment center touchscreen, officials said.
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While none of the current models are equipped with all of the sensors and cameras needed to be “self-driving,” GM has developed plenty of strategic partnerships that will allow them to quickly develop those vehicles and get them on the roads of the tech center. GM is upping its involvement with a company named Mobileye, which develops vision-based systems that help avoid collisions.
“It is a tremendous opportunity for us to accelerate everything around autonomous and safety, and to do it very, very quickly,” said Mark Reuss, head of global product development, purchasing and supply chain. GM officials did not say how many vehicles would be in the autonomous fleet.
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GM’s made a very public commitment autonomous driving technology, touting that it will have its first semi-autonomous car, the Cadillac CT6, on the road by 2017. The technology will allow a driver to take hands off the steering wheel and foot off the pedals while driving on a highway.