GM president: Pieces in place to develop ride sharing, autonomous cars

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (Reuters) - General Motors Co GM.N President Dan Ammann said the Detroit automaker has "a lot of the pieces in place now" to develop ride sharing businesses, autonomous vehicles and services that rely on both.

President of General Motors Dan Ammann answers a question at a news conference about shaping the future of transportation in Beijing, China, March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Since the beginning of this year, GM has invested $500 million in ride-hailing service Lyft, acquired self-driving vehicle technology startup Cruise Automation and continued a push to equip new vehicles with high-speed mobile internet connections.

GM’s rivals are also moving to stake out positions in the developing car-sharing and ride-hailing markets in the United States and elsewhere.

The big automakers are trying to secure alliances with ride-hailing companies in part to develop new channels for selling vehicles, and in part as a hedge against a shift by consumers from traditional car ownership to ride hailing and shared vehicles owned by someone else.

As a result of the Lyft and Cruise deals, Ammann said, GM is now “pretty well positioned” to pursue a strategy of expanding its presence in ride sharing and ride hailing, and in the long term, develop services that use autonomous vehicles to provide customers with transportation.

“A ride sharing network is the logical first place to deploy driverless technology,” Ammann told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Ride-sharing using self-driving cars is a long-term opportunity, Ammann said. In the shorter term, he said, GM and Lyft are working together to expand ride-hailing using vehicles GM builds today. In Chicago, GM and Lyft are working on a program that allows would-be Lyft drivers to rent a vehicle for a short period, use the vehicle to provide rides to customers and then return it.

So far, Ammann said, GM is focusing on the United States in its joint effort with Lyft.

The GM president also endorsed legislation pending before the Michigan legislature that would remove regulatory obstacles to testing autonomous vehicles on public roads.

“Michigan has a chance to be at the forefront” of autonomous vehicle development, Ammann said. He also said it is important to GM to be able to test self-driving cars on public roads.

Reporting by Joseph White; Editing by Steve Orlofsky