On the 10th of December, General Motors said that they plan on laying off around 15 per cent of their workforce. The layoffs affect over 8,000 workers and 25 per cent of GM’s executives. In total, GM plans to close five plants in the United States and Canada.
The cuts come, however, not in light of dwindling profits, but to make room for something new. By the year 2020, GM saves $6 billion to be put into the future of travel. GM plans to reallocate its resources into the development of electric and self-driving cars.
Wondering what GM is up to? This article on self driving car news provides everything you need to know about GM’s new focus on autonomous electric vehicles.
Self Driving Car News: GM Restructuring to Focus on Autonomous Electric Vehicles
No more will General Motors focus on building the sedans that define the companies past. In fact, GMs sedan sales show a decrease over the past few years, with customers favouring SUVs and bigger cars. The plants being closed built and assembled the sedans that GM is known for.
General Motors is discontinuing the Chevy Cruze, Volt, Impala, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac XTS, and CT6. The company now is focusing on their electric and autonomous vehicle programs. In the next two years, GM plans to double the resources going into their new focus.
The timing of the announcement was well planned. In 2017, General Motors purchased a small company based in San Fransico that develops autonomous driving technology. In addition, the fragile US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement puts continued automobile manufacturing in America into jeopardy.
Trade friction with the United States and other large GM importing nations further explains why GM is branching off at this juncture. The circumstances, however, are crippling to thousands of American workers that face decreasing job availability.
More and more auto workers jobs are outsourced to countries with cheaper labour and less regulation.
Reaction to GM Plant Closures
Government officials expressed displeasure with GM’s announcement, which is not unaccepted. Senator Sherrod Brown (Democrat-OH) expressed anger and disappointment with GM for “abandoning the Mahoning Valley” after Ohio taxes went to bail out GM in the past.
There is especially resentment at GM that the company chooses to announce the plant closures just before the holiday season. In Oshawa, Canada the GM factory is a 65-year staple for the community.
Spokesmen for Unifor, the Canadian auto workers union, pushed back against GM’s announcement, calling out GM for not living up to the “spirit of the agreement” made in 2016.
The United States Autoworkers Union (UAW) also retaliated against GM’s announcement, vowing repercussions. The spokesperson for the UAW spoke to the specific outrage of GMs decision to close American plants just to move the labour to Mexico and China.
Is GM Branching Out Alone?
General Motors is not alone in their break-away venture. Honda agreed to buy into GMs autonomous car department for $750 million. And, Honda agrees to give $2 billion over the next 12 years of the project.
Nothing about the steps GM is taking is novel. General Motors is only the most recent of a slew of auto manufacturers branching out into the future of transportation.
Just this past April, Ford stopped producing sedans in North America, in order to compete with other future-car manufacturers, like Ford, Tesla, Uber, and Google.
Honda’s investment in GMs Cruise project entitles it to a 5.7 per cent stake.
What Kind of Cars Will GM Make?
Using GMs Chevy Bolt as a platform, the company is building a car that does not have any peddles or steering wheel. GM has a partnership with Lyft rideshare service, upon which the company plans to build. Their new autonomous vehicles are for use with rideshare customers.
GM says that it will have self-driving electric vehicles on the road and delivering rideshare services within 2019.
The small startup, Cruise is valued at more than 10 times what it was since GM took ownership. The original design implements two Lidar sensors on the roof of the vehicle. The sensors are for mapping the surrounding area in real time.
GMs second generation Cruise is built with four individual Lidar sensors, making the vehicle much more aware of its surroundings. The extra sensors also increase the cars reaction time to events around it.
At present, GM has built over 180 of their second generation Cruises. The official name for their new autonomous electric car is the Cruise AV. The current iteration retains a steering wheel and pedals, but future versions will omit such user control.
GMs team is actively mapping cities around the United States and has completed mapping the entire New York City area. However, it is up to each state as to when and which companies get a driverless permit.
Which Car Makers are Going Autonomous?
GM is a relatively late-comer to investing in electric autonomous vehicles. Most of the largest car manufacturers are investing heavily in the future of all-electric cars. And it makes sense, because of the tax rebatesafforded companies that develop sustainable technologies.
Allied Market Research estimates the total value of the electric car market to exceed $550 billion by the year 2026. So far, the United States and China are leading the way in autonomous electric vehicle development, with the UK close behind.
Some of the companies most heavily invested in autonomous and electric vehicle development are…
Google is a frontrunner in the autonomous car movement. The company is responsible for the most popular mapping and direction software, Google Maps, which gives it a leg up on the competition.
Googles self-driving cars are developed by their subsidiary Waymo, which planned to release the first autonomous car service this month. Googles car service will directly compete with General Motors car program, as GM is partnered with Lyft.
Google is a newcomer to the car manufacturing arena, having only a few years of experience. Their technology, however, is featured in the Toyota Prius, as well as other top manufacturers, like Audi and Lexus. Their cars use Bosch sensors and LG technologies for road mapping.
Unlike Google, General Motors is very attuned to building cars. Their Cruise AV is built from the ground up to be a self-driving car. The market is yet to see the release of Googles autonomous car service, but GM plans to release road-ready driverless cabs in early 2019.
The London taxi cab firm, Addison Lee announced its intention to release totally autonomous cabs for London by 2021. The company is creating digital maps of over 250,000 square miles, from scratch. In cooperation with a self-driving software company, Oxbotica, Addison Lees maps will include public road information, traffic features, and more.
Toyotas current innovation is the first mainstream hydrogen fuel cell car, the Mirai. Toyota is in development of autonomous cars that will serve as rideshare transportation. In partnership with Uber, Toyota plans to release its autonomous vehicle for pilot trials in 2021.
In addition, Toyota is spending over $3 billion on the creation of a new company to house its advanced technology research and development. The company is called Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development. It will also include a closed-course test track.
Fords autonomous vehicle department says that they will release a road-ready model by 2021. For over 10 years, Ford has been investing in and testing self-driving automobiles. In fact, they tested the first self-driving car on the University of Michigan’s Mcity real-world simulation track.
Like Toyota, Ford has a separate entity that handles the autonomous vehicle development, called Ford Autonomous Vehicles.
In early 2020, Mercedes-Benz parent company will release their first driverless car. The parent company, Daimler already has all the necessary licenses and permits to test autonomous vehicles in China, the USA, and Germany. Like Google, Daimler partners with Bosch to develop real-time street sensor software.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum is the first showcase of Daimlers self-driving abilities. With Bosch, the company developed a program to automatically valet park a car from the entrance to the museum.
This year, Volkswagen partnered with Aurora to make autonomously driving cars for the future of fleet vehicles. Aurora is a Silicon Valley company that, together with Volkswagen, plans to release self-driving taxi cabs to cities across the USA by 2021.
The company also partners with Nvidia in developing a co-piolet program for the autonomous vehicles.
Volvo recently formed a partnership with Uber to launch a self-driving car pilot program. All across the UK, over 100 driverless cars drive on real roads, driven by remote pilot’s.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and BMW
Fiat Chrysler and BMW are teaming up with Intel to make a self-driving platform. Intel and its subsidiaries are helping Fiat and BMW develop superior functionality on an open-source platform.
In a true spirit of collaboration, the companies use each other’s resources and expertise to develop concepts and solve problems. The partnership expects to release road-ready autonomous cars by 2021.
BMW is among the first comers to the self-driving car arena. They have been testing self-driving cars, along with Ford, since 2011. The company has already developed a driver assistance program for many of their cars, which helps the driver park and drive, called ConnectedDrive.
Tesla plans on a release of their first fully-driverless car in 2020. Teslas ‘S’ model already has semi-autonomous functionality. It uses machine learning and ‘deep learning’ algorithms to assess road conditions, compute lane changes, and see obstacles.
The news about self-driving cars is good. It is unfortunate, however, that an automotive giant, like GM, can find no other way to retask the trained workers and existing facilities to the future of transportation, than to clean house.
The good news is that, as the autonomous car industry grows, so too does the autonomous car industries job market.
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