The CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, has accelerated plans for the motor company to enter the self-driving car space, according to a story in The New York Times. Barra has been transforming the company during her tenure as the competition in the automotive industry heats up.
After testing out one of GM’s self-driving vehicles in San Francisco last year, Barra decided that the technology was worth pursuing. Since then she has had her engineers craft a group of self-driving Chevrolet Bolts, the company’s signature electric vehicle. In addition to developing a large fleet of test vehicles, Barra is investing heavily to accelerate development of the technology through a new development center in California.
Last year, the company invested $600 million in driverless technology while shuttering some overseas operations to focus in on transforming the company. GM also spent $1 billion on Silicon Valley startup Cruise Automation, which specializes in, you guessed it, driverless technology.
“We are very, very serious and intend on putting something on the road,” Barra told the New York Times. “We definitely want to be first.”
This race toward the future occurs in the midst of Tesla surpassing the auto giant as the highest-valued US automotive company by market value. Tesla is now valued at nearly $57B, almost 10% more than GM. Tesla is set to put their upcoming Model 3 into production in July; the vehicle competes directly with GM’s Chevy Bolt.
Electric and self-driving vehicles have been disruptive to the market as of late. Toyota recently divested its share of Tesla Inc., as the company attempts to develop alternatives to electric vehicles. Ford fired CEO Mark Fields last week in an effort to refocus the company on autonomous vehicles and mobility services.
GM has demonstrated its commitment to electric vehicles with its plant in Orion Township, Michigan, where it assembles the Bolts. GM then fits the Bolts with customized self-driving equipment, including sensor modules on the roof and fenders as well as a sizable computer in the back. The company has built around 140 Bolts equipped with self-driving technology to be tested in Arizona, California, and Michigan.
“I do believe General Motors is a tech company,” Barra said. “We put these products on the roads that integrate 30,000 parts and have hundreds of millions of lines of code in them already. And we have to make them durable and work in all environments.”