GM making 'rapid progress' toward self-driving car deployment: executive

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General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra announces that Chevrolet will begin testing a fleet of Bolt autonomous vehicles in Michigan during a news conference in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., December 15, 2016. (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

General Motors Co’s (GM) Cruise Automation unit is making “rapid progress” toward deploying self-driving cars that don’t require a human driver, the head of Cruise Automation said on Tuesday.

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Kyle Vogt did not say when he expects Cruise Automation’s software will be ready to deploy commercially in a ride services business.

His comments followed a statement by GM’s chief executive officer on Tuesday that it could deploy self-driving cars without a human driver “in the coming months.”

GM shares have risen sharply in recent days in part on investor enthusiasm for its self-driving car efforts. The stock was up nearly 3 percent on Tuesday as it reported higher U.S. sales in September.

Vogt, in a call with reporters and in a blog post, said Cruise’s decision to test its technology on the congested streets of San Francisco is helping to speed development.

Vogt did not say when he expects Cruise Automation’s software to be ready to deploy commercially in a ride services business.

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GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, in a blog post released Tuesday, wrote, “In the coming months, we’ll take the next bold steps in testing our autonomous technology as we lead the way to fully self-driving vehicles without any human driver as a backup.”

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GM Cruise vehicles, for example, must maneuver past double-parked cars on narrow San Francisco streets 24.3 times more often than vehicles in suburban environments, Vogt said.

One of Cruise’s rivals in the race to deploy self-driving cars, Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, tests vehicles mainly on the suburban streets around Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.

“There’s almost no comparison between driving in an urban environment and a suburban” environment, Vogt said.

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