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Jordan Perch loves automotive innovation and that is his ultimate passion. He is managing the resourceful DMV.com and is an active contributor to numerous consumer and automotive blogs.

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General Motors Plans to Launch a Fleet of Autonomous Cars Along With a Ride-Sharing Program

Posted January 28, 2016 2:00 AM by Jordan Perch

General Motors is rarely mentioned when talking about the latest developments and advances in the autonomous driving technology, but it seems that the Detroit-based automaker is determined to change that. The company that has mostly been associated with the highly-publicized defective ignition switch scandal over the past couple of years, has announced its plans for an autonomous car research project, in addition to a car-sharing and a ride-sharing program.

During a conference for investors and analysts at the company's Milford Proving Ground, CEO Mary Barra announced that the company will launch a fleet of autonomous cars near the end of next year at the Warren Technical Center campus in Michigan.

"The convergence of rapidly improving technology and changing consumer preferences is creating an inflection point for the transportation industry not seen in decades," said Barra. "Some might find this massive change to be daunting, but we look at it and see the opportunity to be a disruptor. We believe our decades of leadership in vehicle connectivity is fundamental to our quest to redefine the future of personal mobility."

The fleet will consist of several 2017 model year Chevrolet Volt vehicles, that will be equipped with technology allowing them to drive themselves. The vehicles will be used by employees at the Warren Technical Center, who will be able to reserve one through a car-sharing smartphone app.

Once an employee gets in the car, all they have to do is enter their destination, and the car will drive itself to the destination and park on its own.

"The program will serve as a rapid-development laboratory to provide data and lessons to accelerate the company's technical capabilities in autonomous vehicles," says the company in a press release.

With this move, General Motors clearly wants to try to catch up with the likes of Google and Tesla Motors, which are at the forefront of driverless car development. However, the Detroit-based automaker will have to spend a lot of time and money to be able to compete with the Silicon Valley companies, which already have a significant head start.

In addition to the driverless vehicle research project, General Motors announced a car-sharing and a ride-sharing program. One of the projects is already undergoing in New York, and the other will be launched in another U.S city in early 2016.

The New York car-sharing program allows residents of an apartment building in Manhattan to rent a GM car for several hours for free to get around town.

By introducing these kinds of programs, General Motors is trying to prepare itself for a future where privately-owned cars could become obsolete, as more and more people see car-sharing and ride-sharing as better and more convenient transportation options than owning a car. This is an area that is dominated by the likes of Uber, Lyft and Zipcar, among others, so GM will face tough competition here, as well.

In any case, it seems that General Motors has started to take some important steps that are necessary in order to adapt to the changes in consumer preferences when it comes to transportation and offer alternative mobility solutions that go beyond selling cars.

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