A big test of the ability of autonomous cars to replace taxis and ride-sharing services is on the way.

bolt

VentureBeat reports GM reportedly plans to build and test thousands of self-driving Bolts in 2018.

General Motors plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, beginning in 2018, two sources familiar with the automaker’s plans said this week.

It is expected to be the largest such test of fully autonomous vehicles by any major automaker before 2020, when several companies have said they plan to begin building and deploying such vehicles in higher volumes. Alphabet Inc’s Waymo subsidiary, in comparison, is currently testing about 60 self-driving prototypes in four states.

Most of the specially equipped versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle will be used by San Francisco-based Lyft, which will test them in its ride-sharing fleet in several states, one of the sources said. GM has no immediate plans to sell the Bolt AV to individual customers, according to the source.

The sources spoke only on condition of anonymity because GM has not announced its plans yet.

In a statement on Friday, GM said: “We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ridesharing network application sooner than you might think.”

Lyft declined to comment.

Sooner Than You Might Think

The time-frame for “sooner than you might think” has now advanced to 2018.

GM executive Mike Ableson stated “If you assume the cost of these autonomous vehicles, the very early ones, will be six figures, there aren’t very many retail customers that are willing to go out and spend that kind of money. But even at that sort of cost, with a ridesharing platform, you can build a business.”

No doubt the skeptics will point to the cost. But that is the 2018 cost. It will not be the 2020 cost.

The price of technology is dropping like a rock. For now, if you are only going to build a few thousand vehicles, the cost is bound to be high.

Ford announced production for 2020. GM just leap-frogged Ford by two years. Competition is on, and it will get more intense.

The first big payout will be trucks. Millions of long-haul truck driving jobs are in the crosshairs of major disruptive force. Those jobs will vanish “sooner than most think”, no later than 2022 to 2024, and possibly sooner.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock.