GM Head Tells When Autonomous Cars and EVs Take Over the World

If anyone can predict the future of vehicles it is Mary Barra. She’s the head of GM. If you’re GM you have to be ready for when it happens, whatever “it” happens to be. But you also can’t jump the gun because if you do there is little return on your massive investment in development “it.”. So it is tricky. Recently in an interview, she tells when autonomous cars and EVs will take over the world. Because they will according to her. It’s just that it might take a little longer than we all thought it would.

GM CEO Barra in an interview on Bloomberg Television said, “We believe the transition will happen over time.” So, it’s not like flipping a switch in four years. But, how long will it take? When asked if all cars will be electric in 20 years she said no. “It will happen in a little bit longer period, but it will happen,” she said. 

Electric vehicles were on a very slow growth path. From 2% of sales in the US for a few years, it jumped up to 3% in 2019. For all of the fanfare that Tesla receives and the focus by other companies to catch up with it, 3% is not a big number. And that’s the mystery for some.

So far it doesn’t look like EVs are taking over anything

GM Ultium Electric Modular System | GM
GM Ultium Electric Modular System | GM

While companies like GM and Volkswagen have let it be known that they want to take a massive shift to EV production it doesn’t look like the market is even there. VW has said it is no longer developing internal combustion engines. Yet, it appears to be this huge scramble for what amounts to 3% so far. What does GM know that we don’t?

GM only sells one EV in the US so far. But it recently announced it will develop more than 20 EVs within the next 18 months. At the end of 2021, it plans on having a Cadillac crossover and the return of Hummer as an electric pickup. GM’s crystal ball needs to be pretty accurate because there are billions of dollars involved.

When it comes to autonomous cars she is more precise. Cruise is the self-driving car company GM is a major partner in. GM has been dumping over $1 billion a year into Cruise with little tangible right now. But that’s how these gambles sometimes play out.

“I definitely think it will happen within the next five years.”

Close-up of a bumper of an experimental self-driving car, with HESAI 40 channel Lidar sensor visible, in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco, California, June 10, 2019. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Why You Shouldn’t Expect Autonomous Vehicles Any Time Soon

While the development of an autonomous taxi is ongoing, Cruise let go of almost 10% of its staff less than a month ago. It also killed off its ride-hailing service in 2019. But asked about when Cruise will bear fruit Barra said, “I definitely think it will happen within the next five years.” That is when she thinks the first driverless cars will hit the road.

“Our Cruise team is continuing to develop technology so it’s safer than a human driver,” she says. “I think you’ll see it clearly within five years.” With all of the recent negative news suggesting autonomous cars might never become truly autonomous, this is completely unexpected.

Barra’s balancing act needs to be right with the billions GM is spending and the billions it must generate now. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”