General Motors CEO Mary Barra stated during her keynote at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show that the business plans to sell fully autonomous vehicles to normal people by the middle of the decade. It was a daring remark that is guaranteed to make ripples in the auto industry, especially as it grapples with its own over-inflated expectations about the future of autonomous cars.
While autonomous cars for delivery and commute services are already being tested, building them for retail consumers has not been a priority for automakers due to the excessively costly technology required for the systems.
The self-driving car for individual use is being designed in partnership with GM’s majority-owned Cruise, according to Barra.
Barra stated that GM’s growing electric vehicle investment, which includes the 2023 Chevrolet Silverado electric pickup and the BrightDrop commercial vehicle range, will also include 2 additional Chevrolet hybrids, a $30,000 Equinox EV and a marginally bigger Blazer EV, which will be released in 2023.
The latest AV idea appears to be a more refined version of the Cadillac Personal Autonomous Vehicle (PAV), which was initially displayed digitally at CES 2021. The Cadillac PAV was billed as a completely automated driverless shared vehicle similar to the GM Cruise Origin, but with a number of premium features and comforts aimed at richer users. Cadillac describes the AV as a “mobile living room configured for maximum comfort and enhanced customer experience,” providing the type of opulence one might expect from a high-end chauffeur service – but without the need for a human driver.
The Cadillac PAV concept also featured an inbuilt AI system with speech recognition that can be used to modify settings like climate control, light brightness and temperature, and interior smell. The Cadillac PAV’s technical details were not revealed at CES 2021, but it’s fair to presume it rides on the automaker’s specialized BEV3 electric vehicle platform and employs Ultium batteries and Ultium drive motors – the same technology that powers the Cruise Origin.
“We are looking further down the road at opportunities to extend fully autonomous vehicle technology to personal transportation with the safety and quality our consumers expect and with leading-edge autonomous vehicle program technology that will transform the ownership experience as we know it in pursuing multiple paths simultaneously,” Barra said. “GM and Cruise are gaining significant technological expertise and experience and we are working to be the fastest to market with a retail personal autonomous vehicle. In fact, we aim to deliver our first personal autonomous vehicles as soon as the middle of this decade.”
The Cadillac Celestiq ultra-luxury car will also have GM’s new Ultra Cruise hands-free driving technology in 2023. Ultra Cruise, according to Barra, will employ Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon Ride computing platform for sophisticated driving assistance.
Cadillac raised a few heads at last year’s CES with two advanced designs, including a flying automobile. During this year’s event, Barra introduced a third Cadillac concept, the InnerSpace, which is described as a self-driving, two-passenger luxury coupe.
In a brief film, a fourth Cadillac concept, the OpenSpace, was previewed as a “vision for the next decade and beyond.” A GM source characterized it as a “luxury hotel room on wheels.”
Barra did not provide any further information on the type of car it will sell, the markets it would target, how it will handle liability in the case of a crash, and, most crucially, whether owners will be allowed to sleep in their autonomous automobiles. However, this isn’t the first time Barra has mentioned personal AVs as a goal. Barra originally said during an earnings conference last May that it was investigating the possibility of selling personal AVs using technology from its self-driving subsidiary Cruise.
There are currently no self-driving automobiles available for purchase by customers as privately owned vehicles. Autonomous cars, which are outfitted with several sensors and powerful computer systems, are extremely costly to construct.
To offset the large hardware and software expenses associated with fully automated driving, most AV firms are preferring to deploy their cars as part of fleets of autonomous taxis. Other businesses, such as Tesla, say their vehicles are “self-driving,” although they only have Level 2 advanced driver aid systems.
Numerous experts believe that autonomous vehicles will someday be supplied to customers, but only when manufacturing costs have decreased and margins are more beneficial to a company’s bottom line.
However, GM maintains that the date will arrive sooner than expected. Customers may be able to own their own autonomous car “as soon as the middle of the decade,” Barra added, implying at the very least 2025. More significantly, GM has set a deadline for themselves, which may or may not work in their favor.
Given recent setbacks in the development of self-driving vehicles, GM’s timetable for personal autonomous vehicles may appear excessive. Cruise had planned to launch an autonomous ride-hailing fleet in San Francisco in 2019, but has postponed those plans indefinitely in order to do further testing and get necessary permissions.
Barra indicated again on Wednesday that Cruise now expects those plans to come to fruition in the coming months. In November, the business submitted for the last permission required to commercialize the activities.
Before, the GM-backed Cruise failed to meet its timetable to operate a full-scale robotaxi service in San Francisco by the end of 2019. The service is expected to be launched in 2022, according to the business.
Barra fired Cruise CEO Dan Ammann last month due to differences over the organization’s strategy. Bloomberg said that Barra was pushing for the deployment of Cruise’s technology to power premium self-driving Cadillacs that could be offered to customers. Ammann was said to be sympathetic to the notion, although he preferred Cruise’s robotaxi program. Kyle Vogt, who co-founded the firm and served as its first CEO, has taken up the post on an interim term. Vogt has served as Cruise’s president and chief technology officer. Wesley Bush, the former chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman and a member of the General Motors board, will join the Cruise board, according to GM.
She did not clearly state that GM will offer such automobiles to consumers. It may lease them or offer a subscription service to clients, as it did before with Cadillac automobiles. According to a GM spokeswoman, the firm has no more comments at this time.
Barra’s remarks follow GM’s January unveiling of personal autonomous vehicles concept automobiles for its Cadillac brand. The vehicle was based on the Origin, a self-driving shuttle developed by its majority-owned subsidiary Cruise.
GM intends to begin manufacturing the Cruise Origin, a purpose-built driverless shuttle lacking typical controls such as a steering wheel and pedals, later this year. GM had originally intended to build an electric Chevy Bolt without steering wheels and pedals but has subsequently shelved that concept in favor of the Origin.
In terms of such systems, the GM plan takes a double-edged approach. Cruise is a pioneer in the development of completely driverless cars, and the carmaker plans to expand its sophisticated driver-assist Super Cruise technology to 22 vehicles by 2023. According to Barra, the objective of Super Cruise is to eventually provide hands-free driving in 95 percent of driving situations.
She stated “Both paths are very important because the technology we put on vehicles today, I think makes them safer and delights the customers, and is going to give us an opportunity for subscription revenue,” as well as stating “And then the ultimate work that we’re doing at Cruise that is full autonomous really opens up more possibilities than I think we can online today.”
Super Cruise presently supports hands-free driving on over 200,000 miles of pre-mapped roads in the United States and Canada. Other systems, most notably Tesla’s Autopilot, have more features but need drivers to “check-in” by touching the steering wheel.
The primary distinction between Super Cruise and Autopilot is that GM’s technology includes a driver-facing infrared camera to assess attention, as well as pre-mapped highways that combine with onboard radar, sensors, and cameras to operate the car.
Promoting self-driving cars has been significantly more difficult than many imagined only a few years ago.
GM revealed intentions in 2018 to offer ride-hailing systems in 2019 using self-driving vehicles that lack conventional inputs such as steering wheels and pedals. It put its plans for more testing on hold indefinitely.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated in April 2019 that the carmaker will launch a car without a steering wheel within two years but the business has not provided an update on those plans. Tesla did not reply to a request for comment through email.
Tesla is presently beta testing the next iteration of its technology, which is promoted as a $10,000 “full self-driving” premium alternative. Only a few customers have access to the self-driving system’s beta version. Despite the term, Tesla has informed the California DMV that the system is not completely autonomous, according to letters acquired by CNBC and other media sites.
GM announced plans for an “Ultra Cruise” system last year, but no specifics on the next-generation technology have been disclosed.