Trendy tech companies like Uber and Tesla might get most of the attention surrounding self-driving car systems, but the fact remains that Detroit’s big-name automakers are just as busy developing next-generation autonomous vehicles. GM remains one of the industry’s leaders in terms of safe hours logged by self-driving vehicles on public roads and will even begin producing cars without steering wheels or any other manual controls next year. In a sign that GM could be one of the early leaders of the self-driving vehicle race, General Motors has announced more than $3 billion in investments into their autonomous vehicles program.
The funds come in the form of a $1.1 billion direct investment by GM itself, along with a $2.25 billion investment on behalf of Japan’s Softbank. Softbank has been throwing around large sums of cash in the self-driving vehicle market lately, recently taking over a large ownership stake in Uber. Softbank will now own close to 20% of GM’s new joint venture designed to bring next-generation self-driving cars to roads worldwide. Only about $900 million of Softbank’s money has been invested, with the remaining $1.35 billion to be dispersed once General Motor’s autonomous vehicles hit the commercial market.
Sam Abuelsamid, a transportation analyst with Navigant Research, told CNN Money that Softbank is likely attempting to get in on the ground floor of the hailable self-driving vehicle market set to explode over the next few years. “I would expect Softbank may become the conduit to both feed GM automated vehicles into these other regional [ride-hailing] platforms and to help GM get a foothold into some of these markets with a homegrown [ride-hailing] solution,” Abuelsamid says.
American automakers like General Motors and Ford were once the envy of the world for the way they revolutionized both manufacturing and transportation in the early 20th century. Can they repeat that success 100 years later with the burgeoning autonomous vehicle revolution?