Uber is the most well-known ride sharing company, but there are many others out there. These companies have become popular in metro areas where we you can hire a ride and get where you need to go without hailing a cab. This ride sharing is done through independent owners of the vehicles and has become a fantastic money maker for the ride sharing company as well as for the driver of the vehicle. What you may not be aware of is how these ride sharing companies are being looked at by some of the major automotive manufacturers on the market.
Some automobile companies have seen these ride sharing companies as a great place to have a proving ground for their autonomous technology to be tested. As one of the first to the table in this regard General Motors has put forward a $500 million investment into the San Francisco based ride sharing company, Lyft. As the first investment of this size to a company that is basically a taxi company that makes use of privately owned vehicles this gives GM a partnership and places they can help test some of their technology and still allow this burgeoning business grow and develop.
Eventually this partnership does plan to have fully autonomous on-demand vehicles available to customers, but until that develops, GM can offer the semi-automated SuperCruise system in some of the Lyft vehicles on some limited access roads and highways to have a way to test the technology. This technology is expected to be offered on the 2017 Cadillac CTS for private customers to have and enjoy. This partnership gives GM a platform for the testing and development of the technology without the need to release it to wide-scale production making for a great way to have direct feedback that comes on a larger scale.
Originally the thought was that autonomous engineering would be tested in the 2017 model of the Chevrolet Volt in Warren, MI, but with this partnership with Lyft this could change. As the new preferred provider of short term use vehicles for the Lyft drivers across the country GM will offer the OnStar connectivity to those vehicles which allows drivers and their passengers to enjoy better connectivity and easy to understand directions. This may be the most significant step forward for GM regarding the testing of their new technologies and a place they can test more than just autonomous driving developments.
I would expect other automakers to jump into the fray as well and come up with a way to invest in ride sharing, but GM certainly takes the lead in this category. This may mean we are much closer to actual autonomous driving vehicles than ever, as these cars are expected to make their debut as fleet vehicles before ever being offered to the public for private purchases. Will GM be the first to have an autonomous fleet on the market? They certainly have poised themselves in a position to do so and may be the company that leads the way to self-driving for many of the major metro markets in the US.