TECH: Autonomous Chevrolet Bolt Taxis Coming from GM and Lyft

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Chevy Bolt Lyft

General Motors recently partnered with Lyft and the fruits of that partnership are already appearing. It started with news of short-term rideshare rentals and is expanding to include a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolt taxis.

The plan is to have these cars testing on public roads within a year. This comes just a few months after GM invested $500 million in Lyft.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV development vehicles conduct testing in P

The technology to make this happen won’t come directly from GM. Instead, it will come through a planned $1 billion purchase of Cruise Automation Inc, a San Francisco-based developer of autonomous driving technology.

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The city where this program will be tested has yet to be disclosed. It will start as an optional choice for Lyft customers who will be able to hail one of these autonomous Bolts or choose to go old-school and stick with a car driven by a human.

The Bolt is set to launch later this year at a time when demand for electric vehicles has waned. Range anxiety, cost, and low gas prices have kept buyers away, but the Bolt could have a big future as an autonomous taxi.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

This is partly because of its increased cabin space. The battery is under the cabin floor so it has more space up front and more leg room for passengers in the back. It might not be a Tesla, but it also doesn’t come with a Tesla’s price tag, which makes it a much better choice for a commercial fleet of vehicles.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The most complex part of getting these cars on the road may have nothing to do with the technology. The regulations governing autonomous vehicles is complex and in constant flux. Lyft hopes to avoid some of this mess by keep drivers at the wheel so they can take over if needed. If all goes as planned, those driver’s will eventually be removed.

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Lyft has already built a smartphone app that will show customers the option of being picked up by an autonomous car. The app also leverages their partnership with GM by including the ability to contact OnStar with any problems or questions.

Much like easing the public into acceptance of autonomous cars as their personal vehicles, the same thing will have to happen with autonomous taxis. Making sure Lyft customers are comfortable with these cars is key, which is why they’re only going to come if a customer says it’s okay first, at least for now.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin