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In a direct challenge to Ford, Waymo and Uber, General Motors says it plans to launch fleets of fully-autonomous taxis in 2019.

The carmaker will use the Chevrolet Bolt its all-electric auto as the autonomous guinea pig, dovetailing the autonomous projection in Thursday with the earlier pledge by GM to roll out a profitable platform for electric vehicles by 2021.

The largest US automaker's plan for a self-driving car-sharing service comes at a time when auto sales in its home market are slowing after a record seven-year streak of gains.

GM has ample motivation to figure out ride-hailing. Instead of testing its vehicles on a closed course or in a "simple suburban setting", Wert said, the company has opted to test the vehicles in an environment that resembles where they'll actually be deployed. However this announcement helps to solidify the industry speculation that autonomous vehicles will eventually be the sole vessels for ride-hailing services - and, if done strategically, automakers like GM can highly profit from the shift. Those tests are taking place in San Francisco, Detroit, and Phoenix.

Because GM has software and sensor development, as well as manufacturing, it can roll out autonomous vehicles cheaper than competitors, the company said. That is expected to drive consumer adoption, which is crucial to achieving profitability.

The vehicles will not include a human driver, yet will be able to navigate themselves around the most complex of urban environments - where today's self-driving technologies struggle the most.

Waymo, which is the self-driving vehicle spinoff of Google, was the first company to take the driver from the seat on public roadways in early November. It was a vindication of sorts for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV CEO Sergio Marchionne, who placed his bets on Silicon Valley's ability to move faster on self-driving technology than traditional automakers. The backup driver would be removed at the time of the commercial launch.

GM acquired Cruise previous year in an effort to accelerate its development of self-driving technology.

General Motors wants to create and cash in on operating a ride-hailing business featuring its self-driving vehicles. After the afternoon presentation, shares of GM fell 1.8 percent to close at $43.04 while the broader markets ended higher.


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