General Motors announced today that it would spend $100 million to begin making production versions of its self-driving electric Chevy Bolts at two of its manufacturing facilities in Michigan. The cars, which GM dubs the “Cruise AV,” will be the automaker’s first production-ready vehicle built from the ground up to operate with no steering wheel, pedals, or manual controls.
The vehicles will be produced at GM’s Orion Township assembly plant, while the rooftop sensors that allow the car to “see” its surroundings will be manufactured at its Brownstown plant. GM says it will invest more than $100 million to upgrade both facilities. Roof module production has already begun and production of the fourth generation Cruise AV is expected to begin in 2019.
“We’re continuing to make great progress on our plans to commercialize in 2019,” said GM president Dan Ammann in a statement. “Our Orion and Brownstown teams have proven experience in building high-quality self-driving test vehicles and battery packs, so they are well-prepared to produce the Cruise AV.”
The news comes on the same day that rival automaker Ford is planning on announcing a major update on its product strategy, which may include some news about the company’s self-driving plans. The timing of GM’s announcement was not lost on some automotive reporters.
General Motors' epic trolling of Ford continues.— Peter Campbell (@Petercampbell1) March 15, 2018
With hours to go until Ford's massive make-or-break product strategy update, GM issues new driverless car announcement, with $100m investment into Orion Township plant: pic.twitter.com/Uqd6wH9x13
It also comes a day after a story in The Information cast doubt on GM’s plan to deploy self-driving taxis in major cities by 2019. The cars that are being tested in San Francisco are frequently confused by traffic situations and are occasionally involved in minor accidents. GM said it was still fine-tuning its autonomous driving software.
The news that GM will be manufacturing its self-driving cars in Michigan isn’t exactly new. Last June, the company said that it had completed the first batch of prototype Chevy Bolts at its Orion assembly plant.
GM’s efforts to become a “full stack” autonomous car company, with the ability to control all aspects of the manufacturing and technology development. It’s acquired a number of startups, including Cruise Automation and LIDAR company Strobe, to help achieve this goal. This, in turn, has helped fuel GM’s stock rise, which has climbed 15.4 percent since May of last year. Experts say the company is currently in the lead in the race to bring automated driving to the public.