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GM and Lyft Will Test Driverless Taxi Service

Lyft customers will be able to opt in or out of the robotaxi service

2 min read
GM and Lyft Will Test Driverless Taxi Service
Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

General Motors and Lyft will test a self-driving taxi service in an undisclosed city within a year, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

It’s not clear what steps the mystery city will take to align its rules of the road with the robotaxi service. Customers who get cold feet at the sight of an empty space where the driver normally sits will be able to opt out of the robotaxi service and get a human-driven Lyft car instead.

It’s one of the first fruits in a dealmaking frenzy that’s roiling the auto industry. GM recently poured US $500 million into Lyft, a ride-hailing app that’s like Uber but smaller; GM is also plunking down $1 billion to acquire Cruise Automation, whose technology it plans to use in the robotaxis. And, to complete the high-tech showcase, the company also plans to provide Lyft with its new all-electric Chevy Bolt, which has more battery power and thus more battery range than its existing offering, the Chevy Volt.

In other recent dealmaking news, Google—after failing to sign a deal with Ford—is reportedly teaming up with Fiat Chrysler. Uber is building up its own self-driving laboratory, a process it began by strip-mining the engineering faculty at Carnegie Mellon University.

One of the vexing points in any marriage between a car company and a tech company is who gets to control the data. No car company wants to be treated as a hewer of wood and drawer of water that gets a pittance while some lordly tech partner grabs all the profits. According to a report this week in TheStreet, differences on this question were what probably scotched the proposed Google-Ford alliance. Ford is instead buying its way into the relevant computer expertise by investing $182 million in Pivotal Software, a cloud-computing company.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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