GM moves forward with building recently announced driverless shuttle
The car company picked a plant to build the autonomous vehicles.
GM said Monday it's committing $2.2 billion to retool its Detroit-Hamtramck plant, which currently makes Chevrolet and Cadillac sedans.
GM said it isn't planning to sell the Cruise Origin to individual car buyers. Rather, the Cruise brand will operate a fleet of Origins within a specific city or town. Residents can order a ride on their smartphone, and then an Origin will pick them up and drop them off, similar to an Uber or Lyft ride.
Ed Niedermeyer, an auto industry analyst and co-host of the podcast "The Autonocast," said GM's investment in driverless vehicles is significant because the company is committing to a ridesharing model.
"I think it really blurs the line ... what was once a very strong line between private car and public transit," Niedermeyer said.
Niedermeyer said the Origin shows signs that it was designed with this style of transportation in mind.
"If you can get past the kind of space-age looks -- with its uni-directional, very unconventional appearance -- the inside is actually quite a bit like a London black cab," he said.
The Origin can seat up to six passengers, and has no steering controls of any kind. That marks a major departure from the semi-autonomous vehicles that companies, including Tesla, have been testing in recent years, which are intended to be sold to the general public.
"What we really saw through 2015, 2016, 2017 was this sort of buildup of unsustainable hype around autonomous vehicles -- very short-term goals, expectations of ubiquity in very short order," Neidermeyer said. "And what we're seeing is companies like Cruise back away from those goals, and be more conservative and cagey about their future plans."
He said the scaling back of expectations can be attributed to the shift in thinking around autonomous cars: from personal transport to public rideshares.
"The idea that self-driving cars are simply going to replace cars as we know them, and be as ubiquitous and as operable as cars are today, that's not something that's on the immediate radar for anybody who I think is serious in the autonomous vehicle development space," he said.
GM has invested billions into Detroit-Hamtramck in recent years, touting it as the company's first "fully-dedicated electric vehicle assembly plant."
"Through this investment, GM is taking a big step forward in making our vision of an all-electric future a reality,” GM President Mark Reuss said during a press conference Monday.
Production of the Cruise Origin at Detroit-Hamtramck is expected to begin in 2022.