In a meeting with industry analysts and institutional investors, the company said it planned a commercial launch of fleets of fully autonomous robo-taxis in multiple dense urban environments in 2019. This comes only weeks after Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo self-driving car unit announced it would be launching a robo-taxi service in Arizona.
According to GM President Dan Ammann, GM is making rapid progress on its goal of safely operating self-driving cars in complex urban environments. And, he said, the technology "will continually and rapidly improve once it's launched."
From the standpoint of investors, he told the analysts that the lifetime revenue generation from one of its self-driving cars could eventually reach "several hundred thousands of dollars" compared to the $30,000 on average that the company makes from selling one of its current vehicles. Adding to that, GM's Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens said that a robo-taxi service could be "potentially bigger than our current core business, with better margins."
According to Stevens, the cost of the planned service could be 40 percent lower than that of human driver operated ride-hailing services. Lowering the cost to below $1 per mile by 2025 from about $2.50 today could result in margins of 20 to 30 percent for the company, he said.
As far as lowering the cost of the autonomous vehicles themselves, GM says it expects to eventually lower the cost of the long-range LiDAR sensors used in self-driving technology to $300 from $20,000. In October, GM bought a LiDAR company - Strobe Inc. - claiming that its technology could lower the cost of such sensors by 99 percent.
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