GM on Fast Track to Redefine Mobility with Lyft, Maven & Self-Driving Cars

By Peter Kosak
Mar 24, 2016 12:45 PM ET

There’s never been a more exciting time to work in the automotive industry.

The GM team looks at this massive change happening and sees an opportunity to be a disruptor. A decade ago, automotive innovation and technology were centered inside the car and under the hood. Now that focus is drawn outward and beyond through connectivity.

Connectivity is the ether that everything is in, driven by smartphones as the personal computer in your pocket. It’s dramatically impacted everything…it’s pervasive. 

OnStar was dedicated to adding value to the ownership experience in a company that’s been pursuing a design-build-sell business model for 100 years. But increasingly GM is getting into new areas that treat transportation as a service.

Although some people might find it counterintuitive for a company that sells cars to promote car- and ridesharing, we look at our customer needs and social and environmental trends. That traditional owner-driver model of ownership and usage of the vehicle are changing.

About 25 million customers are projected to use some form of shared mobility by 2020. We’re striving for a shared use system that feels like ownership. If you can make it seamless, convenient and without-question reliable, these are the kinds of things that will make sharing something even more people will want to do.

Our goal at GM is customer-driven sustainability and leading in “share of personal mobility trips taken”.

We’ve been moving fast. In the last few months, there have been four major developments at GM in this space.

Maven: The launch of a car- and ride-sharing brand

First, we launched Maven, a new brand dedicated to car- and ride-sharing.  A new brand is significant for us; it’s not something we do often. A Maven is someone who’s an expert or a connoisseur, someone who has a variety of choices available, and that’s what this is about. Maven is all about providing seamless and intuitive mobility access and options – in addition to and as an alternative to ownership. We developed the app and back-end system ourselves.

Expansion of citywide and residential car-sharing

Second, as part of the Maven brand, we expanded our residential car-sharing programs in Manhattan and Chicago and started a citywide vehicle-sharing program in Ann Arbor. This a college town with a lot of millennials, a vibrant downtown, and about 100,000 drivers.

A strategic partnership with Lyft

Next, we made a $500 million investment in Lyft. We both share a vision for the future of personal mobility…one that’s connected, shared and autonomous. Our technology, electrified vehicles, and embedded connectivity enable us to run networks. Combine that with Lyft’s leadership in software to automate ride matching, routing and payments, and it’s a great combination to create an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles. When the senior leadership of GM met with the co-founders of Lyft, they felt that synergy. When that happens, you act on it. We did, and very quickly.

We also recently announced the launch of Express Drive, a short-term rental program exclusive to the Lyft platform where GM cars will be available to Lyft drivers at affordable rates.

A team dedicated to self-driving cars

The fourth is we now have a team dedicated to autonomous. Up until recently, it’s been mostly about the tech development, the fusion of sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence. But now we’re looking at business models, what the first and best applications are, and what a deployment road may look like.

Autonomous vehicle development requires a dedicated team with the right expertise. We acquired Cruise Automation in San Francisco to leverage its deep software talent and rapid development capability to further accelerate our development of autonomous vehicle technology. By the end of this year, we’ll deploy an autonomous fleet on the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan – an internal learning laboratory replete with all of the challenges of a city, from construction to congestion.

In reality all the things we’ve been talking about are intersecting. Connectivity, advanced propulsion, on-demand access, and autonomous are all part of our march toward sustainability-oriented solutions. Providing mobility access and options that are seamless, safe, and reliable.

Technologies like electrification and autonomous—that’s a flash point for a very different future overall. On the demand side you have changing attitudes, and on the supply side you have the enablers to create these systems.

We’re talking about a future where cars can park nose-to-nose and door-to-door. It could almost be like a Pez dispenser for vehicles, and have charging fields that make sure they’re ready to go.  Whether it’s autonomous vehicles or broad acceptance of EVs, all of it will be pervasive. It’s an inevitable future and we’re getting ready.

Partnerships are key as no one company or industry has the suite of assets that can tackle it immediately.

All in all, autonomous isn’t an event, it’s a road map. These deployments will capture the imaginations of consumers and policymakers and we’ll start to see change accelerating. 

This industry has always been driven by innovation and innovative spirit, but now it’s amplified – fueled by opportunities and advances in connectivity. With assets like OnStar, large dealer networks and the ability to fuse together the vehicle and personal devices and IT to create frictionless user experiences and sharing, we are on a path to redefine mobility as we know it today.