General Motors ( GM ) announced Friday that it plans to put a truly self-driving car - with no steering wheels, pedals and manual controls, or even the usual backup driver in the front seat - on the road in 2019.
[ibd-display-video id=2848573 width=50 float=left autostart=true] GM filed a petition with the government to allow testing of its fourth-generation Cruise, built on the Chevrolet Bolt platform, which it described as "first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own." The Detroit automaker has been testing self-driving Bolts in various urban locations, but has had backup or safety drivers in the front seat.
Friday's announcement is a signal that GM is ready for the next logical step as it gears up to launch a robotaxi business in big cities next year - mass production and testing of fully self-driving cars that do away with a human driver of any sort.
The move also comes as GM seeks first-mover advantage in an increasingly crowded field. Ford Motor ( F ) is preparing to test a new business model , using self-driving cars for ride-sharing, in an unnamed city this quarter. Alphabet's ( GOOGL ) Waymo self-driving unit intends to launch a ride-sharing service using driverless Fiat Chrysler ( FCAU ) Pacifica minivans outside of Phoenix. And Tesla ( TSLA ) CEO Elon Musk has said full autonomy will be an option in the company's Autopilot feature by about 2019.
Shares of GM dipped 0.3% to 44.07 on the stock market today , continuing to consolidate since late October. Ford rose 0.5%, Alphabet climbed 1.7%, Fiat Chrysler eased 0.1%, and Tesla lost 0.5%.
IBD'S TAKE: As the use of electric and self-driving cars grows, these chipmakers may benefit most from the growth of semiconductor content in automotive electronics.
GM is seeking federal approval to adjust 16 motor vehicle standards so it can test cars that have no steering wheel, pedals and other driver controls, CNBC said.
While Alphabet's Waymo hasn't made a similar request, it revealed in November that it is testing fully self-driving cars, with no human driver behind the wheel, in Arizona.
GM sees self-driving fleets of vehicles as a high-growth opportunity, and new paths for revenue are especially key to automakers as car sales have started to slow down in the U.S. after several years of increases.
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