GM's robotic taxi roadmap is shorter than that of rival Ford, which has previously said it will have a commercial auto produced without a steering wheel or pedals by 2021.
It is now unclear how GM's ride-hailing service will compete with industry rivals like Uber, or how exactly GM will market its services.
"We have been committed since we first started talking about our efforts and when we purchased a portion of Lyft to building self-driving cars that operate in a ride-sharing environment", Ray Wert, head of Storytelling and advanced technology communications at General Motors, said. GM shares rose 26 percent this year through Wednesday's close, compared with a 4 percent gain for crosstown rival Ford Motor Co.
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After spending more than a year quietly putting the pieces in place to launch a robotaxi business, GM said Thursday it expects to be ready in 2019 to have a fleet of self-driving cars in operation.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there are about 100 test Bolts (with a human inside) already driving autonomously around crowded San Francisco - a challenging environment considering the bustling streets rife with avid bikers, trolleys, and traffic. At those locations, engineers have a chance to refine the vehicle's self-driving capabilities and the still-precarious rider experience ahead of the ambitious deadline.
"For GM to get the benefit they're looking for, they need these cars on the road at scale as soon as possible", said Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid. Real-world conditions, company officials believe, accelerate the technology and unlock economic opportunity. Last month, Volvo announced plans to provide Uber with up to 24,000 vehicles for a fleet of driverless taxis that are expected to appear on American streets in 2019.
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German automaker Daimler AG has teamed up with supplier Bosch to develop autonomous taxis by 2020. However this announcement helps to solidify the industry speculation that autonomous vehicles will eventually be the sole vessels for ride-hailing services - and, if done strategically, automakers like GM can highly profit from the shift.
GM hasn't yet said whether it will operate the service itself or pair up with the likes of Uber or Lyft, which it invested $500 million in previous year.
"There were no disengagements", he wrote. And it's not quite clear yet whether the automaker will be first.
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