General Motors marked a major milestone as it became the first automaker to build self-driving cars through mass production processes. To highlight the occasion, GM CEO and Chairman, Mary Barra, delivered a keynote speech. Her remarks read as follows:
Thanks, Jim… thanks, Jason.
Let me add my thanks to everyone who has helped achieve today’s important milestone… especially the Orion Assembly Plant team… the men and women of UAW Local 5960… the management team… and our government partners at the federal, state and local levels.
In December, we announced that GM would build its next-generation autonomous test vehicle here at Orion. Production of those vehicles began in January, making GM the first and – to this day – the only automotive company to assemble self-driving vehicles in a mass-production facility.
The autonomous Bolt EVs you see here today are purpose built self-driving test vehicles.
The level of integration in these test vehicles is on par with any of our production vehicles, and that is a great advantage for us. In fact, no other company today has the unique and necessary combination of technology, engineering and manufacturing ability to build autonomous vehicles at scale.
As a result, these self-driving Bolt EV test vehicles leave this factory as state-of-the-art autonomous vehicles.
To date, we have completed production of 130 Chevrolet Bolt EVs equipped with our next generation self-driving technology.
These vehicles will soon join the more-than-50 first-generation self-driving Bolt EVs we have already deployed in test fleets in San Francisco, Scottsdale, and Southeast Michigan.
Today, new technologies and changing customer needs are helping us transform personal mobility and deliver new transportation solutions that are safer, more sustainable and better than ever. We believe one of the best ways to deliver these solutions is through greater access to self-driving electric vehicles deployed in sharing networks.
To get to this future, we at GM are pursuing both an evolutionary path – with technologies such as automatic emergency braking and Super Cruise – and a revolutionary path, and the clearest evidence is the state-of-the-art autonomous vehicles you see here today.
Before getting into further details, let me point out that Orion Assembly also builds the Chevrolet Sonic and the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which has amassed more than 35 awards from independent third-parties, including 2017 North American Car of the Year… 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year… and Green Car Journal’s 2017 Green Car of The Year.
Bolt EV is the world’s first electric vehicle to combine long range with affordable pricing – an EPA-estimated 238 miles per charge at a price below $30,000 after government incentives.
It is a zero-emissions car that is a technology platform, is fun to drive and puts our commitment to sustainability in our customers’ hands.
It builds on our electrification leadership that began with the Chevrolet Volt in 2010, and whose owners have now logged more than 2.5 billion electric miles.
When it comes to the Bolt EV, we now have thousands of customers proving every day that an affordable, long-range electric crossover can not only meet their needs, but also exceed their expectations.
The Bolt EV is now available at Chevrolet dealerships in 16 states, and will be available nationwide by September.
But the Bolt EV is more than just an “EV for Everyone.” It is also a window into the future. It has the onboard power capacity to operate the complex computing systems necessary for self-driving vehicles. And it provides clear benefits for the urban environments where autonomous vehicles are most likely to be introduced – including zero emissions and quiet operation.
And we continue to advance the technology.
The best person to explain the capability of these test vehicles is Kyle Vogt, CEO of our Cruise Automation team in San Francisco. Kyle was unable to be here in person today, but he is joining us by video. Please take a look.[Kyle Vogt remarks on video]
As you all know, GM acquired Cruise Automation early last year. What Kyle didn’t say is that Cruise is a leading Silicon Valley startup in autonomous technology that specializes in developing the software that drives our autonomous vehicles.
Cruise is moving fast, operating within GM like the startup company it is. It is joined at the hip with another outstanding team – GM’s autonomous technology and vehicle execution team led by Doug Parks, who is with us today. Both teams operate with the flexibility and talent they need to innovate and iterate at the speed of today’s leading tech companies.
The array of equipment that Kyle mentioned – the LIDAR, cameras, sensors and other hardware – represents a substantial leap forward in autonomous technology and capability. It will provide GM engineers with more data and faster processing speeds to adapt and problem solve in real time.
Our approach over the last year has been to test in challenging, urban, real-world driving environments, and this next-generation vehicle will allow us to increase that testing and really accelerate our development of safe, reliable, fully autonomous vehicles.
At GM, the highest priority in our vehicle development process is always safety, and of course that priority extends to our development and testing of these autonomous vehicles.
Expansion of our real-world test fleet will help ensure that our self-driving vehicles meet the same strict standards for safety and quality that we build into all our vehicles.
And not only are we committed to building safe and reliable autonomous vehicles, we are also committed to the belief that autonomous vehicles will provide great benefits to society in terms of safety, convenience and quality of life.
The National Safety Council estimates as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicles crashes in the U.S. last year, a 6-percent increase over 2015. We also know that more than 90 percent of crashes are attributable to human error, and that is something that autonomous vehicles have the potential to eliminate.
Going forward, we will first introduce our autonomous technology to customers in ridesharing fleets in major U.S. cities. We believe this has the potential to significantly reduce the cost-per-mile of ridesharing services and really move us beyond the tipping point where “Transportation as a Service” becomes a very important business opportunity for us.
At the end of the day, we believe the societal benefits and business opportunities of autonomous vehicles will be significant… and we intend for GM to be a leader in their development and deployment. Today’s production milestone brings us one step closer to making our vision of personal mobility a reality.
Thanks again to everyone who has made today’s announcements possible.
Special thanks to everyone who has traveled here this morning for this event. Please drive safely on your way home.