Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

GM and Ford: Self-Driving Cars To Deploy First To Ride-Hailing Services, Not Individuals

Foo Conner
Flickr -
File photo of view of Uber's Autonomous Self Driving Car.

Washington state policymakers wrestled for much of the day Monday whether and how to regulate self-driving cars. Until now, major automakers and technology companies have successfully convinced Northwest states to hold off so there aren't 50 states with differing standards.

Hal Lenox directs state government affairs in the West for General Motors. He told state House lawmakers to expect self-driving cars to roll out first with ride-booking services such as Lyft and Uber.

"We don't anticipate the first generation of fully autonomous vehicles will be parked in any of your driveways,” Lenox said. “I know you are disappointed to hear that. But from our viewpoint, it is highly unlikely that that is where they will be. We see the biggest benefit of autonomous vehicles in the near term when combined with ride-sharing."

Lenox spoke in Olympia at a workshop on technology and transportation organized by three state House committees. The upshot of the discussion was that it may be easier to safely develop and deploy fully automated cars with a few operators in a well-defined area.

Separately Monday, Ford CEO Mark Fields described a similar deployment scenario for "high volume, fully autonomous" vehicles. Fields said Ford intends to deploy its robot cars in commercial operation with a ride-hailing service in 2021. The vehicles will operate without a steering wheel or brake and gas pedals. Ford said individual consumers may get a crack at owning such a car around 2025.

An industry association spokesperson told the state lawmakers gathered in Olympia to look for new guidelines for self-driving cars to come out sometime over the next week from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.