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GM outlines mobility vision

Invisible spark: The second-generation Volt isn’t coming to Australia, but GM will roll out a small fleet of autonomous versions in its biggest proving ground.

Autonomous Volts, fuel-cells and electric bikes in GM boss’s vision of the future

2 Oct 2015

STAFF at one of General Motor’s biggest proving grounds in Milford, Michigan will become guinea pigs in the company’s quest to build its own autonomous car.

A fleet of second-generation Chevrolet Volts will be housed at the sprawling centre, and will be able to be summoned by GM staff via a smartphone app to ferry them around the 16 square kilometre location.

The implementation of the autonomous Volt test fleet was just one of the personal mobility measures GM chief executive officer Mary Barra outlined at a media event yesterday, which was also attended by GM’s executive vice president of global product development – and former GM Holden chief – Mark Reuss.

“The convergence of rapidly improving technology and changing consumer preferences is creating an inflection point for the transportation industry not seen in decades,” said Ms Barra. “Some might find this massive change to be daunting, but we look at it and see the opportunity to be a disruptor.”

The company also intends to cut spending in the areas of purchasing, manufacturing and administration to the tune of $5.5 billion ($A8b) between now and 2018, while investing almost the same amount in a new family of Chevrolet products.

It claims that 40 per cent of its global sales will come from all-new vehicles in 2019/20.

The Volt program will be implemented with model year 2017 Volts late next year.

The smartphone app will summon the vehicle from a designated parking space when requested, before driving its passenger to the requested destination with the boundaries of the facility.

The GM forum also previewed a ride-sharing program for the residents of an apartment complex in Times Square, New York. Participating residents, who receive three free trips a month, can book one of an initial fleet of six cars.

Two hundred car spaces around the New York area are also included. Rental fees of approximately $15 an hour will apply after the free trips expire.

GM also announced its intention to re-enter into a fuel-cell technology arrangement with former partner Honda, with the pair planning on producing a commercially viable car in “the 2020 timeframe,” according to the release.

Most unusually of all, GM previewed its own version of an electric bicycle at the event, following in the wheel-tracks of competitors such as Ford, who displayed several e-bikes at an event in June this year.

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