GM’s Mary Barra Updates Analysts On Maven And Autonomous Driving Tests

General Motors is striding forward on its mobility strategy through its Maven carsharing unit and autonomous vehicle test projects.

According to CEO Mary Barra speaking to Wall Street analysts on a conference call this week, GM launched Maven last year as one of the first car manufacturers to enter the car-sharing business. It now operates in 17 markets with 23,231 members, with the company separately announcing today that Maven will be expanding to Atlanta.

Barra said GM is seeing progress in testing autonomous driving through its Cruise Automation subsidiary that it purchased last year for $1 billion.

“We made remarkable progress last year in technology and innovation, especially in the game-changing technologies that are helping us redefine personal mobility,” Barra said.

Maven has been taking shape through its fleet of 10,000 vehicles, with hundreds of Chevy Bolt all-electric cars being added this year. Members use their smartphones to locate and rent a Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, or GMC vehicle for less than $10 an hour. They’ve already logged about 74 million miles of driving, the company said.

Two units have been launched: Maven Home, providing carsharing to closed residential communities; and Maven Business, aimed at drivers in the Lyft and Uber ride-hailing services. Both units have begun offering Chevy Bolts.

Barra sees Maven giving her company channels to give carsharing and ride-hailing users an opportunity to try out GM vehicles, especially those enjoying the costs who’ve formerly driven cars produced by foreign automakers. Maven will also be a channel for better managing resale values by cost-effectively managing vehicles coming back off lease and from car rental company buybacks.

Most importantly, Barra said, GM’s Maven and autonomous vehicle investments could prepare the company for changes in urbanization, increasing traffic congestion and pollution, and changing mobility preferences.

“We are learning a great deal about developing transportation as a service in urban markets due to our work with Maven,” Barra said.

Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based developer GM has a stake in, offers GM a platform for testing out autonomous vehicle technologies. GM and Cruise Automation are testing more than 40 autonomous Bolt EVs on roads in southeast Michigan, San Francisco, and Scottsdale, Ariz.

As the video below shows, a Bolt rider is being driven to a random destination using the Cruise mobile app. This is a common scenario in GM’s test fleets, the automaker said.

“We’ve accelerated our progress on autonomous (vehicles), and that progress is happening on a weekly basis, not monthly or quarterly,” Barra said.

More will be disclosed later this year to analysts on where GM’s autonomous vehicle program is heading, Barra said.

Barra said that attending meeting with President Trump as a member of an economic advisory panel has been productive.

“We’ve had a very constructive and positive conversation about the regulatory environment and putting safety at the forefront and doing the right thing for the environment, but looking at the opportunities to streamline and enable technology,” she said.

The GM chief executive also mentioned that its OnStar navigation unit has been doing very well. Launched 20 years ago a concierge service,

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Barra also said that GM’s subscription-based OnStar, which was launched 20 years ago as a concierge service, had 1.5 billion customer interactions last year and 12 million OnStar-enabled vehicles. It’s become a key element of GM’s connectivity features, she said.

Users of the OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot option in the Chevrolet brand used 4.22 million gigabytes (4,220 terabytes) of data in 2016, an increase of 200 percent over 2015, the company said.

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