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

Dan Ammann left General Motors president and Kyle Vogt chief executive of Cruise Automation, pose with cars in the test fleet in San Francisco on Tuesday

General Motors Co. expects to carry passengers and deliver goods with self-driving vehicles in big cities sometime in 2019, telling investors it's moving quickly and plans to be ahead of other automakers and tech companies. LIDAR technology uses light reflection to make high-resolution images to provide a clearer view of the road for cars, more so than cameras or radars, GM says.

With today's ride-hailing services, consumer do not have to be concerned with having sticker shock for the price of electric vehicles, and automation costs in the first few years will be expensive as well. That's because electric cars can rack up lots of mileage without much maintenance - and self-driving vehicles mean they no longer have to pay drivers. The Detroit automaker's testbeds for the self-driving Bolt are in Warren, San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona.

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.

The outlook for when GM thinks it'll have a self-driving service ready roughly coincides with when Uber will begin taking delivery of 24,000 sport utility vehicles from Volvo Cars expected to be capable of piloting themselves.

Google's Waymo division will soon start testing self-driving vehicles in Phoenix without a backup driver in the front seat. It was a vindication of sorts for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne, who placed his bets on Silicon Valley's ability to move faster on self-driving technology than traditional automakers.

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"Looking for a clear path" screens facing the driver and passengers read several times during the trip, when the auto stopped next to some traffic cones or behind double-parked vehicles.

GM acquired Cruise past year in an effort to accelerate its development of self-driving technology. The Detroit News reports that Cruise Automation plans to add about 900 employees to its team by early 2018.

The bullish stance on autonomy comes just three weeks after- including two new vehicles in the next 18 months.

General Motors wants to create and cash in on operating a ride-hailing business featuring its self-driving vehicles.

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