General Motors Co. will test fully self-driving cars in New York City by early next year.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that GM and San Francisco-based Cruise Automation — the technology company GM acquired in 2016 — applied to run the first tests with vehicles operating fully autonomously in the state.
That keeps GM ahead of its competition. Dozens of automakers and suppliers are testing and developing autonomous technology for fully self-driving vehicles. Ford Motor Co. and Argo AI, the company building the virtual driver system for Ford, have vehicles on the road in Pittsburgh and Southeast Michigan. One start-up has been testing self-driving shuttles in downtown Detroit running on closed loops.
But GM would be the first automaker to run self-driving vehicles actually operating in self-driving mode in Manhattan, one of the densely populated urban places where automakers are expected to launch fleets of those self-driving vehicles when they’re ready within the next several years.
“Testing in New York will accelerate the timeline to deploying self-driving cars at scale,” Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise Automation, said in a statement. “New York City is one of the most densely populated places in the world and provides new opportunities to expose our software to unusual situations, which means we can improve our software at a much faster rate.”
Automated Chevy Bolts will run in a geo-fenced area that GM is already mapping. While the vehicles have tested in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, New York City will add new elements to the data collection, including an abundance of taxi cabs, unpredictable pedestrians and unique driving scenarios.
GM and Cruise will have an engineer in the driver’s seat and another in the passenger seat to monitor the tests, though they will not be driving. Cruise will expand to New York and build a team there to support the expansion.
It’s another big move on the mobility front for the Detroit-based automaker most experts currently see as a leader in the field. Since August, GM stock has risen more than $10 per share, opening Tuesday at $45.80 per share.
Vogt in September wrote a blog post claiming GM and Cruise had the world’s first mass-producible car designed to run without a driver. Developing a solid autonomous driving system that can perform in the real world would be big. Delivering it in volume to contemporary global production standards would be a breakthrough.
Early last year, GM bought Cruise Automation to help it with autonomous vehicle software development. The Cruise team has grown from about 40 people in California to more than 100, and GM plans to hire 1,100 over the next five years.
Third-generation self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EVs — which GM produces at its Lake Orion plant — are assembled at high volume with a full suite of cameras, sensors, lidar (light detection and ranging) and other hardware needed for autonomous driving.
Vogt has said the new Bolts are the first autonomous vehicles to meet redundancy requirements that experts say will be needed to safely put driverless autonomous vehicles on the road for consumer use.
“Our newest self-driving car might look like a regular car on the outside, but the vehicle’s core system architecture more closely resembles that of a commercial airplane or spacecraft,” wrote Vogt in September. “It’s a complex and time consuming process to design cars this way, but it’s the responsible thing to do.”
GM earlier this year said it planned to significantly boost the number of self-driving Bolts in testing to “hundreds of test vehicles” by the end of the year. In June, GM announced it had built 130 self-driving Bolts and they would join more than 50 already in testing. The company currently is testing self-driving Bolt EVs in San Francisco, Scottsdale and Metro Detroit.