Positioning for future mobility

GM, like Ford, has announced greater dabbling in car sharing. In recent announcements, GM’s executives have declared a focus on car sharing, e-bikes, electric vehicles, connectivity and autonomous technology. One of the projects announced as part of this “focus” is Let’s Drive NYC, a new car sharing program that will be offered initially only to residents of a single 479-unit building near Times Square. With this program, occupants receive three hours of vehicle use per month; additional time starts at under $10 per hour, or up to $75 for 24 hours, which is very competitive with Zipcar’s rates in the city. In addition, GM announced that it will let employees ride around in self-driving Chevy Volts starting next year.

In an effort to accelerate its driverless program, Toyota is investing US$50 million with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in hopes of gaining an edge in an accelerating race to phase out human drivers.

Honda has announced it will be placing driverless cars on California’s roads for testing purposes.

Daimler has announced that its car sharing service, Car2Go, is injecting a little luxe into its lineup. The Daimler-owned company, which has more than 1 million registered members in 29 cities globally, is adding 75 four-door Mercedes-Benz B-class vehicles to its fleet in Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled the car that talks to traffic lights and other vehicles. The company also announced plans to develop luxury driverless cars.

According to Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW board member, German carmarker BMW is preparing to rethink its products, design and business models for the advent of driverless cars. He said the competitive advantage for premium carmakers will be rooted in their ability to offer a portfolio of transport options far beyond just selling a car.

Google tripled its self-driving fleet in four months. This means more testing, more learning and probably, faster improvements. According to recent reports, the company is also trying to make its cars drive more like humans (less by the book).

Google turbocharged its driverless car initiative by hiring John Krafcik, one of the most respected names in the auto manufacturing industry.

Between Krafcik and Boeing CEO Alan Mulally (now a Google board member) and ex-GM research and development boss Lawrence Burns (now a Google Auto consultant), the Google Auto is building a Dream Team to take on the century-old industry.

As Google’s threat becomes more credible, the traditional carmakers are circling the wagons. Last week, 10 automakers announced a voluntary commitment to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to install automatic-braking systems as standard equipment in new cars. The manufacturers’ hope is that by offering some of Google’s promised life-saving advantages with this incremental improvement, they can create a kind of Counter-Reformation that keeps buyers firmly in the driver’s seat for years to come.

Apple, announced to be releasing what will in all likelihood be an electric vehicle in 2019, has purchased 11 map startups as part of the company’s efforts to strengthen its mapping capabilities. What are the chances that Apple is working on autonomous vehicle tech? J This simply adds to the all the curiosity surrounding Apple’s discussions with California DMV. While information about the discussions is not available, it would be safe to assume that they centred on the company’s foray into driverless tech.

And, we must not forget the numerous other players that will likely enter the market. Sony, for example, has not ruled out entering the mobility industry.

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