GM has built its first batch of 130 self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EVs at its Orion, Mich., assembly plant. The automaker is taking a bow for being, GM says, the first company to use mass-production methods to build autonomous cars.
The Orion plant started building the new self-driving Bolts in January, so they weren't exactly flying off the line at the speed at which the plant builds Chevy Sonics, or even the more conventional Bolt EV, which will be on sale nationally by August. But being able to build these cars on a modern assembly line is an essential step for such vehicles to be produced in volume at lower prices.
"This production milestone brings us one step closer to making our vision of personal mobility a reality," said GM's CEO Mary Barra in a statement. "Expansion of our real-world test fleet will help ensure that our self-driving vehicles meet the same strict standards for safety and quality that we build into all of our vehicles."
GM says the new Bolt EVs incorporate its latest generation of self-driving technology and gear, including lidar systems, cameras, sensors and other equipment. The 130 new autonomous Bolts will join 50 already being tested in fleets on public roads in San Francisco, Detroit and Scottsdale, Ariz., by GM subsidiary Cruise Automation. Cruise is a tech startup that GM bought in 2016 for $581 million and recently announced it was expanding with more money and 1,100 new jobs. GM also has a stake in the Lyft ride-hailing company and is collaborating on development of self-driving Bolt EVs for the service.
"To achieve what we want from self-driving cars, we must deploy them at scale," said Cruise Automation CEO Kyle Vogt in a statement. "By developing the next-generation self-driving platform in San Francisco and manufacturing these cars in Michigan, we are creating the safest and most consistent conditions to bring our cars to the most challenging urban roads that we can find."