GM to start autonomous vehicle manufacturing, testing in Michigan

GM to produce next generation of autonomous test vehicles in Orion Township

DETROIT – General Motors announced Thursday it will begin autonomous vehicle testing on public roads in southeast Michigan, and the fleet of test vehicles will be built in Michigan, too.

The announcement comes on the heels of the signing of the SAVE Act legislation to support autonomous vehicle testing and deployment in Michigan. GM will produce the next generation of its autonomous test vehicles at its Orion Township assembly plant beginning in early 2017.

"Revolutionizing transportation for our customers while improving safety on roads is the goal of our autonomous vehicle technology, and today’s announcement gets us one step closer to making this vision a reality," said General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. "Our autonomous technology will be reliable and safe, as customers have come to expect from any of our vehicles."

The fully autonomous Chevy Bolt is what residents will see on the outskirts of Warren. The extreme winter weather is a blessing for engineers who want to make sure the vehicle meets safety and reliability standings on the worse of days.

Testing is already underway on GM’s Technical Center campus in Warren, Michigan, and, with the passage of the SAVE Act legislation, will now expand to public roads on the facility’s outskirts.

Within the next few months, testing will expand to Metro Detroit, which will become GM’s main location for development of autonomous technology in winter climates.

Workers at the Orion Township assembly plant will build test fleet Bolt EVs equipped with fully autonomous technology. The plant currently manufactures the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Sonic. The new equipment will include LIDAR, cameras, sensors and other hardware designed to ensure system safety, leveraging GM’s proven manufacturing quality standards.

The test fleet vehicles will be used by GM engineers for continued testing and validation of GM’s autonomous technology already underway on public roads in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona, as well as part of the Michigan testing fleet.

The engineers will initially ride shotgun on every test AV to intercede in an emergency, but eventually, the vehicle might be driverless.

Since the beginning of 2016, GM has taken significant steps in its development of autonomous vehicle technology.

In January, the company announced the formation of a dedicated autonomous vehicle engineering team and a $500 million investment in Lyft to develop an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the U.S. In March, the company announced the acquisition of Cruise Automation to provide deep software talent and rapid development expertise to help speed development.

In June, GM began testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs on the public roads in San Francisco and Scottsdale. The company has more than 40 autonomous vehicles testing in the two cities.

Mary Barra comments on LinkedIn

Barra posted the following statement Thursday on LinkedIn:

"The auto industry is changing more today than it has in the past 50 years, and nothing says this more clearly than the growing push to develop and introduce autonomous vehicles (AVs).

At GM, we dramatically accelerated our own AV development efforts this past spring when we acquired Silicon Valley startup Cruise Automation.

We took another big leap today with two important announcements.

First, we will produce the next generation of our autonomous test vehicles at our Orion Assembly plant in Michigan beginning early next year. We expect to be the first high-volume auto manufacturer to build fully autonomous vehicles in a mass-production assembly plant.

We also announced that GM will immediately begin testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in Metro Detroit. This marks our third public testing location after San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona, where we’ve been road testing AVs since June.

By adding Michigan to our real-world testing program, we’re ensuring that our AVs can operate safely across a wide range of road, weather and climate conditions, from desert heat to Great Lakes snow to crowded city streets. This is necessary to make certain our AVs meet the same strict standards for safety and quality that we’ve been building into traditional vehicles for generations.

And we’re not just committed to building safe and reliable autonomous vehicles. We’re also committed to the belief that AVs will provide huge benefits to our customers when it comes to safety, convenience and quality of life.

In 2015, traffic accidents cost more than 35,000 lives in the U.S., and it’s estimated that 90 percent of these accidents were caused by driver error – errors that autonomous driving has the potential to eliminate.

At GM, we’re advancing technologies that make our customers’ lives safer, simpler and better. Today’s announcements are important steps on this journey. Stay tuned for more in 2017."