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General Motors: Self-Driving Cars Being Mass Produced

It's the only automaker capable of mass production of autonomous vehicles, putting it ahead of Tesla and other competitors.

by James Bennett, The Daily Herald, Columbia, Tenn. / July 13, 2017

(TNS) -- General Motors says it's ready to mass produce self-driving cars.

Let's take a second and digest that revelation.

The world's largest automaker said last month it has finished making 130 self-driving Chevrolet Bolt test vehicles at the GM plant in Lake Orion, Mich. It's the only automaker capable of mass production of autonomous vehicles, putting it ahead of Tesla and other competitors.

The unveiling of GM's progress did not catch much of the national news media's attention or interest.

But in a region where the company employs more than 4,000 people in Spring Hill and is directly responsible for billions in economic impact, it caught ours.

Much remains at stake race in the race to produce the first self-driving cars.

Jobs will flow if they catch the public's imagination, for example, possibly to Spring Hill, which has room to expand and the educated pool of workers to produce it, in my opinion.

GM's stock price, which closed at $35.40 Tuesday after being at $30.60 a year go, will take a direct hit, positively or negatively, in the future, depending on how the cars do on the market.

"The autonomous vehicles you see here today are purpose-built, self-driving test vehicles," CEO and Chairman Mary Barra told employees gathered in Lake Orion. "The level of integration in these vehicles is on par with any of our production vehicles, and that is a great advantage.

"In fact, no other company today has the unique and necessary combination of technology, engineering and manufacturing ability to build autonomous vehicles at scale."

GM says the Chevrolet Bolt can handle nearly all road situations on its own, without driver intervention, but a driver who is alert and capable of taking over must be at the wheel — for now.

GM and its suppliers have equipped the Bolts with state-of-the art cameras, radar, sensors and other hardware.

"There are even a couple of cameras that are dedicated just to seeing traffic lights to make sure you don't run red lights," Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt said.

Cruise Automation was the self-driving car software company that GM acquired for $581 million in 2016. GM also invested $500 million in the ride-hailing app Lyft.

GM plans to hire hundreds of engineers and workers to assist Cruse Automation in its development.

The company, meanwhile, has been testing 50 previously build self-driving Bolts in Detroit, San Francisco and Scottsdale, Ariz. Testing of the new cars will begin soon, Barra said.

Previously, GM had 50 self-driving Bolt in its fleet. The 130 additional cars allow it to test and modify its specifications.

"The transportation mechanisms we have in place today will be changed in the near future," United Auto Workers Local 1853 Chairman Mike Herron said Tuesday in Spring Hill. "This is a watershed moment for GM and the auto industry, in my opinion, a game-changer in terms of technology.

"I am excited about where GM is going," he added. "The technology GM has is fantastic, not only in self-driving cars but in the development of hydrogen cars. The futuristic products make this an exciting company to work for."

The expansion of company's footprint was reflected recently in changing the name of GM Powertrain to GM Advanced Propulsion Systems.

GM's record earnings and cash flow have allowed its to return cash to investors and employees. It also has allowed for expansion into self-driving cars and technology beyond our imagination.

"We've built a track record of strong financial performance," GM spokesman Tom Henderson told USA Today. "We'll stay focused on delivering outstanding results and making decisions to deploy capital where it will generate the strongest returns, to enhance shareholder value."

©2017 The Daily Herald (Columbia, Tenn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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