Is It True GM Will Sell Autonomous Vehicles to Consumers by Mid-Decade?


Many people associate autonomous driving with Tesla, but it turns out a lot of carmakers are making strides in this direction. General Motors’ Mary Barra probably borrowed a few lines from Elon Musk’s book when she claimed in her CES opening speech that GM will sell autonomous vehicles to consumers as soon as mid-decade. Mary Barra’s bold claim probably didn’t come entirely as a surprise. After all, it was made in front of the sleek Cadillac InnerSpace AV concept at a show that lives on forward-thinking speculations. We must add people are already vaccinated by equally bold promises made by Elon Musk countless times before. But coming from the CEO of a big company like General Motors, this claim should carry more weight. What Barra did was set a deadline for GM that might not be in her own or her company’s interest. “In pursuing multiple paths simultaneously, 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,” said Barra during her keynote at CES. It is true, General Motors might know a thing or two about driving assistance technologies, having its Super Cruise suite already helping drivers in several models. General Motors announced last year they will deploy the technology to six models in 2022, with 16 others coming up by 2023. Super Cruise is still a Level 2+ autonomous driving system, though. GM also owns Cruise, an autonomous vehicle startup that could help deliver the first AV to retail customers as Barra hinted in her speech. And yet, Cruise promised to deliver an autonomous ride-hailing fleet in San Francisco as early as 2019. The plans were indefinitely delayed, and to our knowledge there were no real-world tests that would bring this objective any closer. Barra also ousted Cruise CEO Dan Amman last month over disagreements concerning the startup’s direction. There is no fully autonomous vehicle in the world right now. Even Waymo taxis that appear to drive themselves are only Level 3 cars for now. Although they appear to “self-drive” without any driver intervention, there are actual people that supervise them remotely. Tesla calls their cars “self-driving” and we all know how that played out. Even if there were fully autonomous driving vehicles, their producers will have to navigate a delicate puzzle of legal and ethical matters that are not even put in place anywhere in the world. And yet, Mary Barra is sure GM will have everything sorted out on their part and also all the regulations in place for people to be able to buy and “drive” a fully autonomous car by 2025. We’ll see how this will go from now on, especially as GM still has a lot of issues going on with its electric cars deployment and set-backs.