GM and Lyft to Partner on Self-Driving Ride Sharing

Michael Walker
Chevrolet Bolt

Self-driving versions of Chevrolet's Bolt electric car will be added to Lyft's fleet.

On the heels of the agreement this week between Google and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to collaborate on self-driving car technologies, General Motors and Lyft will partner on a program to place self-driving versions of Chevrolet's Bolt electric car in the ride-sharing service's fleet.

In January, GM invested $500 million in Lyft to establish a network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the U.S. The self-driving Bolts are expected to join Lyft later this year.

The collaboration, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, is part of an accelerating transition from gas to battery-powered, self-driving vehicles that over the next decade is expected to transform personal transportation and society.

Earlier this year, Google, Ford and Uber, Lyft's much larger competitor, formed a coalition to push for federal support for self-driving cars, and in January, the Obama administration announced a proposal to create a $4 billion program to provide national guidelines for autonomous vehicles.

The Lyft app will allow customers to opt out of riding in one of the self-driving cars. The autonomous Bolts will initially have human drivers to monitor and take over if the self-driving tech can't cope.

Current autonomous driving systems, such as Tesla Motors' Autopilot, rely on 3D cameras, radar and other sensors that work well on freeways but falter in the chaotic mix of vehicular and pedestrian traffic found on city streets, where most of the the self-driving Bolts will serve.

Meanwhile, municipalities aren't waiting for Lyft or Uber to introduce self-driving ride sharing.

Last month, the Beverly Hills City Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution to develop driverless vehicles that will provide public transportation throughout the city, part of Mayor John Mirisch's plan for a municipally owned autonomous fleet that would provide on-demand shuttle service to and from any address in the city. 

The Bolt, which will have a 200-mile range, is expected to go on sale later this year for around $30,000 after federal and state rebates. Its presumed rival, the $35,000 Tesla Model 3, has already booked more than 400,000 preorders but won't enter production until late 2017 at the earliest, giving the Bolt a possible two-year head start in the marketplace.