GM Puts Self-Driving Car Push Into a Higher Gear

January 30, 2016, 12:00 AM UTC
Maven Provides Personal Mobility Solutions
Maven customers will experience seamless smartphone and keyless integration with the vehicle. Maven customers use its app to search for and reserve a vehicle by location or car type and unlock the vehicle with their smartphone. The app also enables remote functions such as starting, heating or cooling and more. Customers can bring their digital lives into the vehicle through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar, SiriusXM radio and 4GLTE wireless. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)
John F. Martin for General Motors

General Motors is creating an engineering team dedicated autonomous driving as it pushes to build self-driving cars and other connected car technology.

The automaker says the team will help accelerate the company’s technical capabilities and create the future direction of GM vehicle programs, according to an internal corporate announcement. The team will be solely responsible for all critical technologies in the car including electrical design, controls and software, and safety integration, according to GM.

Doug Parks, who was most recently vice president of the company’s global products programs, will lead the team. The company made several other personnel changes in the autonomous vehicle team, all of which go in effect Feb. 1. Pam Fletcher, the executive chief engineer of the company’s global electric vehicles, will be responsible for the fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Volts being tested on GM’s campus. She also will lead a team focused on strategic planning and competitive assessments within the autonomous and electric vehicle space.

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Sheri Hickok, a chief engineer for an upcoming light duty pick-up truck, will lead the teams for creating autonomous vehicle fleets. Hickok will also be in charge of developing autonomous vehicle partnerships and joint ventures. Andrew Farah has been promoted to chief technology architect of autonomous systems.

Over the past six months, GM (GM) has announced several initiatives that highlight its interest in unconventional transportation popularized by a new wave of startups, including a partnership and $500 million investment in ride-hailing startup Lyft. Eventually, GM wants to develop a network of self-driving cars within Lyft’s service that can shuttle passengers around town without a driver.

For more on GM’s plans to do more than sell cars:

General Motors recently introduced a car-sharing service, joining a growing list of major automakers pushing into new businesses to attract customers who don’t own vehicles. The new car-sharing service, Maven, will combine and expand several of GM’s existing test programs under one brand. Maven is really three car-sharing services in one: a city-based service that rents GM vehicles by the hour through an app, another for urban apartment dwellers in Chicago and New York, and a peer-to-peer sharing service that started in Germany last year.

General Motors has been criticized for being slow to adopt new technology and for letting tech companies like Google (GOOG) take the lead in developing self-driving cars. However, GM has been one of the most aggressive automakers in adding Wi-Fi to dozens of new Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC models, thanks to a AT&T 4G radio module that provides the same kind of high-speed link you’d expect to get out of the latest 4G iPad or Samsung Galaxy. And it has been quietly working on autonomous driving technology. Now it appears the company is positioning itself to make its self-driving car project more public.


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