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GM Plans to Make Semi-Autonomous Cars, Introduce Vehicle-to-Vehicle Connectivity Next Year

The automaker will introduce updates to its Cadillac line and begin testing fully autonomous Chevrolet Volts at a company facility in Michigan in 2016.

An automotive juggernaut is grinding toward semi-autonomous, interconnected vehicles hitting the roadways in the next two years.

General Motors plans to put self-driving vehicles on the campus of its technical center in Warren, Mich., next year, CEO Mary Barra told Wired last week. It also plans to outfit a car in its Cadillac line with technology called “Super Cruise,” which will allow the cars semi-autonomous driving on highways.

The company also plans on making two Cadillac models capable of vehicle-to-vehicle connection next year, Barra said. Vehicle-to-vehicle connection would, theoretically, allow cars to share information with each other, such as where roads are congested, and could help cars avoid crashing into each other. The U.S. Department of Transportation, seeing immense potential to reduce traffic collisions, has begun pushing for a requirement that all new vehicles be capable of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology.

The introduction of “Super Cruise” would make GM one of the first — but not the first — automaker to introduce semi-autonomy to its cars. The GM announcement came one day after Tesla patched a software update into its most recent Model S cars that gave them the ability to maintain lanes on their own, change lanes and parallel park without the driver’s control.

According to Barra, GM plans to test fully autonomous driving using updated versions of its all-electric Chevrolet Volt cars at its Warren technical center. The campus consists of 11 miles of roads, featuring traffic features cars would encounter on public roads such as roundabouts and cyclists. The company will put engineers behind the wheels just in case they need a human driver to take over.

Barra did not elaborate on whether the company has a timeline to introduce fully autonomous cars or how the Volt experiment will fit in with its long-term plans.

Several other companies are testing self-driving cars, including many that have permits to do so on public roads in California. Google, Tesla, Honda and seven others hold those permits, but General Motors does not — at least in California.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.