GM Sees Personal Ownership & Customization of Self-Driving Cars

GM Sees Personal Ownership & Customization of Self-Driving Cars

Author: Derrick Smith   

Personalization of cars has always been an important part of car culture. Car aficionados often install custom audio systems, video screens, custom paint and other interior appointments to their cars. Although industry analysts are predicting a decline in car ownership as car sharing and on-demand mobility services take hold, General Motors foresees a future where self-driving cars are still customizable and personally owned.

Custom-designed autonomous vehicles could still be owned or leased by individual customers, including those outside of large cities, and used in peer-to-peer car sharing applications, said Mike Abelson, GM vice president of global strategy.

GM is exploring several models to drive revenue from self-driving cars, according to Abelson, speaking at Citi's Car of the Future conference in New York.

Abelson, one of the key architects of GM's future transportation business, said self-driving cars used for ride sharing "are going to evolve quickly into purpose-built vehicles" that do not look like conventional cars.

While GM initially is using specially modified versions of the Chevrolet Bolt EV for its robo-taxi fleet in 2019, the automaker's next wave of driverless vehicles will do away with the steering wheel and pedals, allowing additional customization of the passenger compartment.

The design of the vehicles would be continually adjusted to provide customers with "a more appealing experience," he said.

Early leaders in deploying self-driving cars, such as GM and Google affiliate Waymo, "will have the opportunity to take a lead in new business models that will drive their companies' profitability," said John Hoffecker, vice chairman of consultants AlixPartners.

Abelson said GM believes personally owned self-driving vehicles "will be a big business in the future," especially in sparsely populated rural areas where ride-sharing services may be available for years.

GM's commercial ride-sharing business is expected to drive down the cost of self-driving cars in the future, Abelson said.

Current lidar systems, which autonomous cars use to navigate, can exceed $70,000. Instead vehicle owners might elect to put their vehicles into a peer-to-peer sharing service, such as those proposed by Tesla Inc. and GM, and share revenue with the companies that operate those services.

Hoffecker said costs are "going down dramatically," to the point where individuals should be able to buy self-driving cars by 2023-25.

Derrick Smith
Derrick Smith
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