Since acquiring Cruise Automation, an autonomous-car software firm, General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) has demonstrated its driverless Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles to journalists by offering test rides. This coincided with another driverless-car technology firm, Zoox, allowing journalists a peek into its cars.
Zoox, which would started three years ago, is currently trying to raise about half a billion dollars in funding. It is currently valued at over $3 billion having appreciated since last year when it was estimated to be worth $1.55 billion.
The decision by General Motors and Zoox to test their cars in busy roads is markedly different from the approach that Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Waymo took of testing its vehicles on public roads before deploying them to Phoenix, Arizona. Currently Waymo has a fleet of autonomous vehicles being tested there and with no human involvement at all. The driverless-car unit of Alphabet plans on soon offering rides to non-company employees.
In Phoenix the weather is much better suited for the driverless cars’ sensitive sensors compared to San Francisco. The driving scenarios are also less complex. Another difference is with regards to regulations. In the state of California a safety operator is required inside a driverless car while in Arizona fully driverless technology is allowed. The rules in California are set to change however allowing for fully driverless technology.
Zoox and General Motors are however of the view that testing in San Francisco suits their ambitions of initially deploying their autonomous cars for mobility services which are expected to be extensively used in densely populated urban environments.
“One minute of driving in a place like San Francisco is equivalent to an hour or more in a less denser suburban environment,” said Kyle Vogt, Cruise Automation’s boss.
According to Vogt the strategy of General Motors is to launch a fully autonomous vehicle into the market as safely and as quickly as possible instead of initially unveiling a ride-hailing service which makes use of human hands and brains. Zoox on the other hand is reimagining the car from scratch.
On Wednesday shares of General Motors fell by 2.47% to close the day at $43.81 a share.