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Self-driving vehicles have been a topic of contention in recent years. Autonomous driving is an absolute game changer in the automotive industry, there is no doubt about that. Tiring road trips that drag on for days could become a low-effort activity, and commuting could be seen as a low-stress non-issue, meaning many Americans could live further from their workplace without a drain on their mental health.

However, autonomous driving has not been implemented well, to say the least. Despite autonomous driving still being in its debatably dangerous infancy, CEOs are doubling down on their autonomous driving technology, with GM’s CEO among the latest to back the technology.

GM’s CEO doubles down on self-driving tech

Mary Barra, Co-CEO of General Motors recently had a message for attendees at a Sanford Bernstein conference that doubted the profitable future of autonomous vehicles; “You’re wrong”.

GM took ownership of Cruise, a self-driving vehicle company in 2016 for an undisclosed amount. Since then, Cruise taxis and delivery vehicles have been seen around major US cities, offering completely driverless services. Barra continued by explaining that completely autonomous vehicles could be seen in the marketplace by the end of the decade.

With these projections, GM’s Cruise can be predicted to produce around $50 billion a year in annual revenue by 2030. This figure could grow exponentially with planned expansion into Dubai and Japan in the future after the US market is fully serviced.

GM’s investment is coming at a major initial loss

Of course, every investment can tout large future returns to keep investors and the media happy. What matters is a clear road to profit, and as of right now, GM’s Cruise is losing money at a rate of $2 billion per year. According to Yahoo, other automotive brands like Volkswagen and Ford Motor Company have recently cut their autonomous technology programs as losses have mounted year after year.

Despite these losses, GM is continuing to push its technology, with Cruise vehicles expanding from their San Francisco streets to other markets in Arizona and Texas. While San Francisco is very tech-friendly by nature, its crowded streets have not been the most receptive to Cruise’s autonomous vehicles, and Texas and Arizona have been much better test markets.

For GM to succeed, they need some help

GM needs help from multiple agencies and companies to make their investment in autonomous vehicles work in the future. China, for example, is a huge market for GM’s vehicles, especially GM’s Buick offerings, but China’s EV marketplace is so saturated that it can be nearly impossible for an American company to make a move.

GM also wants to have some of their Origin vehicles enter the marketplace, which features subway doors and no steering wheel. To do so, the NHTSA needs to approve the vehicles, which they have yet to do.

The most obvious hurdle for GM is the cost of EV technology. Right now, EV batteries are too expensive to produce for mass-market commuter vehicles at a low price. We are still years off from profitable mass-market EVs being sold for an affordable price.

Later in the decade, we may see profits starting to be produced from electric mass-market vehicles, but until then, GM will still see some losses from their large initial investment. However, don’t count them out just yet, GM may just turn the tide as autonomous vehicles continue to gain popularity nationwide.


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