Chevrolet Bolt is Front and Center For GM’s Self-Drive Technologies

The 2017 Chevy Bolt is more than a relatively cost-effective EV, it’s also the testbed for General Motors’ self-driving technologies.

Chevrolet has already been road testing 30 prototype self-driving Bolts in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Ariz., deployed by GM’s Cruise Automation subsidiary, and next move is in its home turf.

That is, it will begin building a test fleet of autonomous Bolts in January alongside the regular version at its plant in Orion Township, Mich. for testing in state.

The fleet will be equipped with the latest roof-mounted lidar units, as part of an extensive suite of sensors that allows cars to “see” their environment.

For now, GM will focus on hands-free technology with the Bolt EV tests. A trained driver will remain behind the steering wheel ready to take control in the event of an anomaly or emergency.

Until last week, testing of self-driving Bolts in Michigan were limited to private roads within a mile of GM’s Technical Center, but that changed when Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed into law the SAVE Act, which allows autonomous cars on all of the roads in GM’s home state.

The company will begin road tests of autonomous Bolts immediately on nearby roads and expand throughout the Detroit area.

Michigan will become GM’s primary area to test self-driving tech in cold weather and snow, conditions that challenge the lidar, cameras and sensors to operate.

SEE ALSO: Sooner Than Some Think, Lyft Will Launch GM’s First Autonomous Electric Car

Current plans for Detroit’s largest maker is to place conventional Bolt EVs into use sometime next year with the ride-sharing company Lyft, in which GM invested $500 million last January. Eventually, autonomous versions will be introduced to the Lyft fleet and, longer-term, add fully driverless Bolts.

GM’s Detroit rivals are also pushing ahead with their own self-driving vehicle development programs.

Among these is Ford which is testing a fleet of autonomous Fusion Hybrid sedans, and has said it plans to launch a production self-driving car for ride-sharing services by 2021. Also, Fiat Chrysler just delivered its first Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid plug-in hybrid minivan converted into prototype self-driving vehicles to Waymo — Google’s renamed self-driving car project.

The race is on for self-driving vehicles.

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