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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday January 28, @06:31PM   Printer-friendly
from the johnny-cabs dept.

[...] The most important reason for GM's comeback, though, is its success in convincing investors that it is a leader not just among established carmakers, but among tech firms, too. It has rapidly accelerated from the position of an also-ran in the field of autonomous vehicles to apparent leader. A scorecard issued annually by Navigant, a consultancy, puts GM ahead of the AV pack of carmakers and tech firms, with Alphabet's Waymo in second place.

That GM is ahead of Silicon Valley's risk-takers may seem surprising. But earlier investments, which were once looked on with scepticism, seem to be paying off. Alan Batey, GM's president for North America, points to the manufacturing of mass-market long-range EVs, where the firm has a lead. The Chevy Bolt, the world's first such vehicle, has been on sale for over a year, beating Tesla's Model 3 and the new Nissan LEAF to market.

The Bolt is supposed to be the basis for an ambitious autonomous ride-sharing business. On January 12th GM announced the latest version of its Cruise AV, a Bolt-based robotaxi without a steering wheel or pedals. GM plans to use it to launch a commercial scheme in several cities, starting next year. Rival tech firms and carmakers are only running, or are planning to launch, small test projects.

When GM paid $1bn in 2016 for Cruise, an artificial-intelligence startup, many analysts wondered whether it was throwing away money. But the marriage of cutting-edge technology and large-scale manufacturing seems to be paying off. The carmaker has learned to be more nimble; Cruise has picked up how to make its fiddly technology robust enough for the open road. As a result, GM can now mass-produce self-driving cars, says Dan Ammann, second-in-command to Ms Barra. Scale will help steeply to reduce the cost of sensors, which are the key components of an AV.

The firm is being rewarded because, unlike other carmakers, it has assembled all the parts of the puzzle you need to build new transport services, says Stephanie Brinley of IHS Markit, a consultancy. But even if GM is no longer a dinosaur, risks remain. In particular, it may be too bullish in its estimate of the market for robotaxis and it may be placing too much faith in the benefits of being the first to market.

[...] Critics think that GM may have accelerated too swiftly and that it will have to endure years of losses before robotaxis take off. Even if things move fast, points out Berenberg, another bank, GM may not be the one to benefit. The main constraint in growing a ride-hailing business now is acquiring drivers. But when these are eliminated, capital will be the only limit. And that could mean huge fleets of robotaxis chasing passengers, forcing prices down. Riders may then choose a brand they recognise, such as Uber and Lyft, rather than Maven, GM's ride-hailing business.

If so, being first would confer little advantage. And yet, if carmakers do not want to accept their fate passively, they have little choice but to remodel themselves. The outsized Silverado and the sensor-packed Cruise AV show that GM has the present in hand—and that it is at least doing its best to safeguard its future.


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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by jelizondo on Sunday January 28, @07:06PM (3 children)

    by jelizondo (653) on Sunday January 28, @07:06PM (#629540)

    Certainly being first to market does not translate into a profitable business, but on the other hand, competitors do not have the advantages that GM enjoys.

    Let’s see, Waymo, no manufacturing experience or capacity for large production runs. Of course, Google could get some large manufacturer (either in the U.S. or Asia) to make their cars; this would be my bet and it might be interesting to see if Hyundai, Fiat-Chrysler or Toyota can work together with Google.

    Uber and Lyft? Give me a break, they don’t manufacture anything at all, basically all they have is an app and mind-share. If they, as the TFA suggests, start big on the robotaxi business, where will they get thousands of robotaxis? It might be GM selling to them the cars, so GM wins.

    Tesla? I love Tesla and Musk, but Musk has his finger in too many pies and with the Model 3 late (again) one can doubt that they can grow fast enough to take on GM.

    Interesting times ahead, indeed.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, @09:46PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, @09:46PM (#629590)

      Waymo had their koala cars on the roads, but their test fleet is almost exclusively Chrysler vans, and they must work closely with the manufacturer for their level of integration.

    • (Score: 2) by opinionated_science on Sunday January 28, @11:41PM

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Sunday January 28, @11:41PM (#629632)

      a good analysis. But the murky reporting of these things by vested interests, suggests that Tesla may yet succeed.

      He's managed to exploit the exponential effect of modern computing - and more importantly, changed the exponent of manufacture.

      Of course, we'd all like to see a smooth delivery... but recalibrating one's expectation with the *massive* inertia of the established industries, suggests they are running scared.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @07:31AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @07:31AM (#629736)

      Musk has his finger in too many pies

        'pies' is now another lingo for 'asses'?

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by frojack on Sunday January 28, @07:26PM (13 children)

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 28, @07:26PM (#629544) Journal

    The Chevy Bolt, the world's first such vehicle, has been on sale for over a year, beating Tesla's Model 3 and the new Nissan LEAF to market.

    Both of Tesla and Nissan beat GM to the EV market by years, Tesla by over a decade, Nissan by 6 years.
    When you see such an obvious attempts to deceive in an article you wonder about the credibility of the rest of it.

    I like the Bolt. I think it would be a great commuter and runabout. I can still drive it where I want to, even if that is off the beaten path.

    But I'm not sure I want to trust an AV version of this same EV car, even (or especially) as a taxi. In fact, I'm not entirely sold on the concept of an autonomous Taxi. I doubt they will be cheaper or cleaner.

    --
    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 1) by tftp on Sunday January 28, @07:59PM (5 children)

      by tftp (806) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 28, @07:59PM (#629556) Homepage

      I'm not entirely sold on the concept of an autonomous Taxi. I doubt they will be cheaper or cleaner.

      They are part of all futuristic novels. Must have. With regard to damage, I proposed a mitigation plan earlier. Taxi can be summoned only from an "approved" account. Door opens with a credit card that is compatible with the account. There are cameras inside. If the damage is not fixed right away, the client is dropped from the "approved" list. Accidental damage can be fixed at dedicated spots (garages, perhaps) for a fee. This will ensure that every car returns to service clean.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Sunday January 28, @08:43PM (4 children)

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 28, @08:43PM (#629567) Journal

        Never mind who Who gets blamed for the bag of poo left surreptitiously in the car or the cloths ruining stuff smeared on the seats.

        If they cancel one bad actor's account the perps simply steal a new account, they will all be stolen and for sale on the web in short order.

        There are cameras inside you say? Oh, Joy!!
        Who protects the occupants from the recording and retention of in car surveillance held forever by the company?

        Yeah, all futuristic novels, where identify theft is not an issue.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 1) by tftp on Sunday January 28, @09:46PM (1 child)

          by tftp (806) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 28, @09:46PM (#629592) Homepage
          In the future there are no gangs, robbers, thieves. Perhaps we should aim for the same goal. The methods can be discussed in a different thread.
          • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Monday January 29, @02:47PM

            by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Monday January 29, @02:47PM (#629813) Homepage
            In the sufficiently distant future, there'll be only cockroaches.
            --
            Life is a precious commodity. A wise investor would get rid of it when it has the highest value.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @02:50AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @02:50AM (#629678)

          Yet, in the real world, pay-by-the-minute rental cars work just fine.

        • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Monday January 29, @11:41AM

          by TheRaven (270) on Monday January 29, @11:41AM (#629783) Journal
          All of those possible problems sound like they'd also apply to ZipCar, yet it manages to function well - cars are left parked around a city, anyone with an account can book them and drive them off. There's no routine inspection other than the next customer checking for dirt / damages, but if you don't report damage and the person after you does then it's pretty obvious that it was you. Accounts may be compromised, but it's unlikely to be a statistically significant fraction of the total usage. And, honestly, if you can compromise enough taxi accounts to cause a significant problem, then you can do much more lucrative things than make a mess inside them.
          --
          sudo mod me up
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by jelizondo on Sunday January 28, @09:40PM (1 child)

      by jelizondo (653) on Sunday January 28, @09:40PM (#629588)

      Both of Tesla and Nissan beat GM to the EV market by years

      TFA is not quite clear which type of vehicle it calls first in the world, however it is a fact [wikipedia.org] that GM mass-produced the first electric vehicles.

    • (Score: 1) by dtremenak on Sunday January 28, @09:53PM

      by dtremenak (1051) on Sunday January 28, @09:53PM (#629594)

      It's the first "such vehicle," referring to object of the previous sentence..."mass-market long-range EV."

      I'm guessing they don't consider the first-generation LEAF "long range" (107mi vs the Bolt's 230mi and the Model 3's 220mi), and they don't consider the upmarket Teslas "mass-market" (with prices starting around $70k instead of closer to $40k).

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by richtopia on Sunday January 28, @09:53PM

      by richtopia (3160) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 28, @09:53PM (#629596) Homepage Journal

      Alan Batey, GM's president for North America, points to the manufacturing of mass-market long-range EVs, where the firm has a lead. The Chevy Bolt, the world's first such vehicle, has been on sale for over a year, beating Tesla's Model 3 and the new Nissan LEAF to market.

      Full quote, and highlight the specification which renders the statement truthful*.

      *truthful depending on your definition of mass-market long-range EV. Whatever you call this competition, these three cars are directly competing with each other and each other only.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, @10:13PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, @10:13PM (#629608)

      We have had eclectic vehicles since nearly the beginning of cars.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_electric_vehicle [wikipedia.org]
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhnjMdzGusc [youtube.com]

      Some were even mass produced. Range is always the issue. Every time. Until recently charging a car meant 8-12 hours to go 30-100 miles. Gas is still a very efficient way to transport energy at a low cost. We have been trying to get away from gas since the beginning. It is a nasty thing to deal with at all stages. We know it. The problem is density of energy. NG is making headway (and there are MANY NG cars out there). However, it too has many issues.

      • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday January 29, @07:42AM (1 child)

        by c0lo (156) on Monday January 29, @07:42AM (#629738)

        We have had eclectic vehicles

        I don't quite get what's an eclectic vehicle.
        Will you be a dear and explain it to me using a car analogy?

        (grin)

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @09:44PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @09:44PM (#630043)

          I'm pretty sure that it is a vehicle that takes inspiration from many other types of vehicles.
          Part ATV, part luxury car, part convertible, part hard top, part sports car, part grocery getter.

  • (Score: 2) by Hawkwind on Monday January 29, @04:07AM (4 children)

    by Hawkwind (3531) on Monday January 29, @04:07AM (#629691)
    Can someone help me out here? The French company NAVYA has multiple demonstrations, is running in Helsinki as a shuttle service, and is hitting Copenhagen this Spring/Summer. Seems like they're closer.
     
    NAVYA [navya.tech]
    Applications [navya.tech]
    Helsinki [nytimes.com]
    Copenhagen [cphpost.dk]
    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @04:25AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, @04:25AM (#629696)

      NAVYA doesn't have a car -- it is a low speed (20 mph/30kph) shuttle pod/bus. And not very good if this Tech Review test ride is to be believed,
          https://www.technologyreview.com/s/609938/and-the-award-for-most-nauseating-self-driving-car-goes-to/ [technologyreview.com]
      I submitted this as a story, but it wasn't accepted (yet).

      I left the Strip for Fremont Street to take a ride in the autonomous shuttle bus that Keolis and Navya teamed up on—a good opportunity, I figured, to be with other consumers who were also just getting familiar with the technology.

      The shuttle, which started operating on a roughly half-mile loop here in November, has a neat design. There is no driver’s seat or designated front or back; instead, there are two parallel benches with four seats apiece, facing each other, and an operator stands up on one side with access to a touch screen and a gaming joystick (no steering wheel or pedals in this thing).

      Neither the cool look of the shuttle nor the fact that the first stop was a doughnut shop could offset how sick sitting in it made me feel. Many times it stopped short on the road, even when there was nothing in front of it—our shuttle operator explained that its lidar sensors were probably responding to the closeness of a number of orange traffic cones (which appeared to have been placed to indicate the route the vehicle would take). Caution is great, but its jerky stop-and-start movements made me want to hurl.

      • (Score: 2) by Hawkwind on Monday January 29, @09:24PM

        by Hawkwind (3531) on Monday January 29, @09:24PM (#630032)

        Interesting but NAVYA still has more going on, and more planned for this year. Plus no reason to assume they're done improving. But thanks, good review.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by FatPhil on Monday January 29, @08:43PM (1 child)

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Monday January 29, @08:43PM (#630014) Homepage
      Oi! Where are the links to the SN stories about those ones? Here's an example from Tallinn, Estonia [soylentnews.org] (where I was the humble editor). But those are indeed not the kinds of vehicles being talked about. The GM guy was suspiciously precise about what kind of vehicle he was talking about, otherwise he's have been false because there are more budget and more premium cars that predate his.
      --
      Life is a precious commodity. A wise investor would get rid of it when it has the highest value.
      • (Score: 2) by Hawkwind on Monday January 29, @09:26PM

        by Hawkwind (3531) on Monday January 29, @09:26PM (#630033)

        Thanks! The article does sounds way too tailored to the situation ... and the USA.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Whoever on Monday January 29, @04:53AM

    by Whoever (4524) on Monday January 29, @04:53AM (#629703) Journal

    This is just PR for gullible investors. In fact, I don't even think it is the first time that such a claim has been made about GM, making it not a surprise at all.

    Here we go: Navigant again, April last year:
    https://www.wired.com/2017/04/detroit-stomping-silicon-valley-self-driving-car-race/ [wired.com]

  • (Score: 2) by crafoo on Monday January 29, @06:03AM (2 children)

    by crafoo (6639) on Monday January 29, @06:03AM (#629714)

    GM makes reasonably well-engineered and reliable gas and diesel powertrains. Then they put them in ugly cars with mandatory GPS tracking and shitty sound systems. They are fast-followers, waiting for risk-takers to get there first and then copy and improve on them as quickly as possible. Then they wring every bit of performance and cost effectiveness out of a technology through exhaustive testing and engineering. Usually sticking to technology a decade or two after everyone else has moved on.

    I don't see them leading the charge in any technology. Certainly not autonomous vehicles. It's just not how the company is structured. They would have to burn the whole place down, fire everyone, and start over.

    • (Score: 2) by qzm on Monday January 29, @10:43AM (1 child)

      by qzm (3260) on Monday January 29, @10:43AM (#629763)

      Or, of course, they could just grease a few friendly palms to get some analyst to say they were leading by using much measures as corporate size as a factor.

      Which is what they did here. Surprised?

      • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Monday January 29, @08:45PM

        by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Monday January 29, @08:45PM (#630015) Homepage
        They also excluded more luxury vehicles from the comparison, and cheaper vehicles from the comparison.

        I suspect that if other competitors were available in yellow, they'd have ensured they never released theirs in yellow and added a "not available in yellow" clause to the list of subset-defining predicates.
        --
        Life is a precious commodity. A wise investor would get rid of it when it has the highest value.
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