General Motors Co. (GM) is set to expand their fleet of driverless cars in San Francisco, Detroit, and Scottsdale, according to documents filed by the company.
IEEE Spectrum reports that the expansion process could commence as early as next month, as evidenced by the documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). These files indicate that new short-medium-range radars will be incorporated in 300 self-driving Chevrolet Bolts.
Its subsidiary, Cruise Automation, will then have one of the largest fleets of automated cars in the world.
As it stands, Waymo boasts 80 vehicles on the US roads and is now adding 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
But GM is catching up fast with 50 driverless Chevrolets in three US cities. They are also testing for 27 other manufacturers based in California.
IEEE Spectrum reports that GM Research Corporation filed a Special Temporary Authority (STA) with the FCC on March 27, 2017, a request which grants/denies the testing of a radio frequency device that has not already been certified. This documentation requested permission to test an experimental vehicular radar known as Ukaza, but the quantity of vehicles testing the radar was not disclosed in the filing.
The number of units involved in the experiment can convey business sensitive information to competitors regarding future plans for services and technologies that have not yet been fully developed.
However, the company inadvertently revealed both the quantity requested and their destination in a subsequent letter to the FCC on April 10, as noted by IEEE Spectrum. The letter was in relation to a meeting between the new FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, and GM's lead counsel and chief privacy officer, Chris Murphy. It read:
Mr Murphy discussed the Special Temporary Authority (STA) request made by GM' s supplier Alps Electric North America filed in mid-March to temporarily authorize short-range radars in 76-81 GHz for testing purposes.
Bosch's subsequent filing to the FCC is obviously connected to GM's plans for expansion. That's because the document further states that Bosch wants to test 648 units, which would suggest a fleet of 162 vehicles given their radars would be installed on each corner of the cars.
The request also stated that they would use the data to "develop their algorithms." Bosch revealed that the radars would be sent to Detroit, San Francisco, and Scottsdale. Quite the coincidence, considering they are the exact locations GM affiliate Cruise Automation is testing its fleet. Hmmm ...
Let's not forget that Cruise is partnering with Lyft in the not-to-distant future. Reuters reported in February that they're teaming up with the cab-sharing company to deploy thousands of automated vehicles for Lyft to test out in various states. This will provide Cruise and CM by default with vital data to develop their automated vehicles.
These are not the only plans underway. GM also announced yesterday that it would be investing an $14 million in a new research facility for Cruise Automation in San Francisco.
It's not just a technical expansion for GM—the company also stated that 1,100 jobs would be created in San Francisco as a result.
Expanding our team at Cruise Automation and linking them with our global engineering talent is another important step in our work to redefine the future of personal mobility. Self-driving technology holds enormous benefits to society in the form of increased safety and access to transportation. Running our autonomous vehicle program as a start-up is giving us the speed we need to continue to stay at the forefront of development of these technologies and the market applications.
Things are certainly looking positive for Barra's company; GM received a grant of $8 million from California Governor Jerry Brown's Office of Business and Economic Development to further develop their driverless technology.
It remains to be seen who will win this driverless race, as GM competes with the likes of Uber, Google, and Tesla on the West Coast, as well as Ford, Daimler, and Renault-Nissan in Detroit. After all, (fleet) size isn't everything.