GM’s Latest Venture After Closing American Plants? Using Driverless Cars To Bring You Food

REUTERS/Carlos Osorio

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Chris White Tech Reporter

General Motors’ self-driving vehicle unit is planning to provide food delivery services through autonomous vehicle technology as the automaker continues taking grief for laying off thousands of workers.

Cruise and DoorDash’s program is scheduled to start in March and will include meals from restaurants, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The companies will also explore linking up with grocery deliveries for certain stores already working with DoorDash.

GM, Alphabet’s Waymo, and Ford are betting that replacing drivers will substantially reduce the cost of taxi or delivery service, once the technology is demonstrated to be safe, and the gear for such technology becomes less pricey.

GM’s Cruise has plans to offer an Uber-like robot taxi service in an undisclosed city sometime in 2019. Cruise launched an app in 2017 for its employees there to hail rides in self-driving cars with a safety driver behind the wheel.

Ford recently ran a simulated autonomous delivery service for flowers, dry cleaning and other services with small businesses in Miami. The Detroit-based company is also considering leaping headlong into the pizza delivery business.

“We believe there’s a huge market for [autonomous vehicles] around moving both people and goods,” Sherif Marakby, chief executive of Ford’s autonomous vehicle business, said during a November conference. (RELATED: GM’s Mass Layoff Includes Eliminating A Hybrid Car Obama Once Championed)

General Motors (GM) Chairman and CEO Mary T. Barra pauses as she speaks to the media after a meeting with Michigan congressional delegation on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Dec. 6, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

TheWSJ’s report comes after GM announced in November 2018 that it will cut roughly 14,000 people in North America and will idle factories in Michigan, Ohio, Maryland and Canada. The layoffs come as the company focuses on manufacturing electric vehicles over gas-powered sedans.

But the plan could hit a brick wall if tax credits for electric vehicle purchases dry up.

GM is one of several auto companies, including Tesla, that is seeking an extension of tax credits for those purchasing electric vehicles. The company helped create the so-called EV Drive Coalition on Nov. 13 as many automakers approach the cap of 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer before the credits phase out.

The $7,500 tax credit dropped to $3,750 in January, according to Tesla’s website. GM is entering a similar stage — it is expected to hit the 200,000 vehicle point with sales of its Chevrolet Bolt EV, among other vehicles.

Analysts argue that phasing out the credit would harm Tesla and GM. Data show the elimination of the tax credit could seriously hobble both companies, though Tesla might feel a bigger sting considering the company’s inability to mass produce vehicles at the scale of its larger competitors.

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