General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] has been spending up big in preparation for the arrival of fully autonomous cars.

First it invested $500 million in ride-sharing business Lyft, and just a few months later it paid $1 billion to acquire autonomous car technology firm Cruise Automation.

The end goal is to create an on-demand autonomous taxi service.

We’ve now learned that the service could start as early as next year.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Based on an interview with Lyft Director of Product Taggart Matthiesen, The Wall Street Journal reports that within a year GM and Lyft will start testing a fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs in a city that's yet to be disclosed. Crucially, members of the public will be able to hail a ride in the cars.

If all goes to plan, a customer using Lyft’s smartphone app could choose whether they’d like to be picked up by an autonomous car. Once on the move, the customer is able to contact GM OnStar if they require any assistance, and once at their destination the customer can choose whether they want to keep the car for later use or if it is free to go and service another customer.

Matthiesen explained that there were still plenty of details to work out, namely regulations concerning the use of autonomous cars on public roads and liabilities. There’s also the matter of developing the technology, a race in which GM and its partners are competing alongside other major automakers as well as tech giants Apple, Google and Lyft rival Uber.

Apple has kept quiet on its progress but Google has already been testing a large fleet of autonomous cars for some time and just this week announced it had partnered with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU] to source around 100 autonomous Chrysler Pacificas to expand the fleet. Meanwhile, Uber has been testing its own fleet of autonomous cars at a location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


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