GM’s First Self-Driving Car Will Be a Tesla Fighter Made for Lyft

And don’t be surprised if it happens to be a Chevy Bolt.

byWill Sabel Courtney| PUBLISHED Jul 19, 2016 8:10 PM
GM’s First Self-Driving Car Will Be a Tesla Fighter Made for Lyft

It's a perfect storm of the automotive industry's topics du jourGM's first self-driving car will be an electric Tesla fighter found in Lyft fleets before anywhere else, according to one of the carmaker's highly-placed engineers.

The latest word about General Motors's electric self-driving car future comes from Pam Fletcher, who is uniquely qualified to comment on the program; she is both GM's executive chief engineer of autonomous tech and the company's former executive chief engineer for electric vehicles. Fletcher broke the word of the new autonomous Tesla-fighting Lyft car to Tech Insider, adding that such a vehicle isn't all that far in the future.

"I would say is this is all coming much faster than people anticipate," she told TI. "We are working on an on-demand ride-sharing network with Lyft, it’s not something we are thinking about, it’s something we are very much readying for consumer use.”

Fletcher did not make clear whether the vehicle would be based on the Chevy Bolt, GM's upcoming pure EV and Tesla Model 3 rival. But the Bolt would seem an obvious choice for such a program; General Motors already plans on allowing Lyft drivers to lease the electric car through its Express Drive program, and autonomous Chevy Bolt prototypes have been spotted cruising the streets of San Francisco.

Further bolstering the case for the Bolt serving as the basis for GM's upcoming autonomous Lyft car: Fletcher herself. The Bolt, she told TI, was specifically designed with ride-sharing duty in mind.

And while self-driving technology currently exists in various forms in both fossil fuel-powered and electrically-motivated cars—GM's upcoming semi-autonomous Super Cruise is expected to debut in the gas-powered Cadillac CT6—Fletcher says electric cars simply make for better autonomous vehicles.

“[EVs] operate very smoothly, they operate very quietly, seamlessly, and so you can create this very positive experience inside the car,” she said. “They want to get in the car and for it to feel like a cocoon, so they can take a nap or have a conference.”

News of GM's plans to merge autonomous cars, electric vehicles, and ride-hailing services preview a future the carmaker has been striving towards with Taylor Swiftian ambition. Back in January, the carmaker acquired a $500 million share in Lyft, quickly declaring their plans to develop a national autonomous ride-sharing networkGeneral Motors purchased self-driving car startup Cruise Automation in March, and recently announced plans to add 700 engineers in Canada to work on developing the autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.