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A fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolt EV prototypes are currently on the streets of San Francisco

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Earlier this month, it was revealed that GM and Lyft are partnering to test a fleet of self-driving electric taxis sometime within the next year in an undisclosed city. Now we learn that the city in question is San Francisco as the first few vehicles, Chevy Bolt EVs with a sensor suite on top, have been spotted in the city.

In March, GM acquired self-driving car start-up Cruise Automation in an attempt to accelerate its self-driving technology program, which is arguably far behind industry leaders like Google, Tesla or Mercedes.

Kyle Vogt, the founder and CEO of Cruise Automation who is best known for being one of the co-founders of the streaming website Twitch, was spotted in the driver seat of one of the self-driving prototypes in San Francisco – a spy photographer sent a few shots to AutoBlog.

At least one of the prototype was simply a plain white Bolt EV with a sensor suite rigged on top, while another prototype spotted had a camouflage wrap, but also appeared to be a 2017 Chevy Bolt EV.

GM seems to be testing two different sensor suites since the camouflaged Bolt didn’t seem to be equipped with what appears to be a trifocal camera setup on the white prototype:

Both systems feature lidar sensors.

The program is expected to result in customer trials relatively soon. From our earlier report:

Details of this plan are still “being worked out,” according to the report, but it is said to give customers “the opportunity to opt in or out of the pilot when hailing a Lyft car from the company’s mobile app.” There’s no word on where the program will take place, with WSJ saying it will be “in a yet-to-be disclosed city.” Lyft is said to be starting the program with drivers in the front seat, but that — assuming legal hurdles can be navigated — human drivers will eventually be out of a job.

Prior to being acquired by GM for reportedly over $1 billion, Cruise Automation was working on an aftermarket self-driving system for highway driving. The first prototype sensor suite, called RP-1, included two stereo cameras, a 77 GHz radar and 10 axis inertial measurement units.

There’s no word on when GM and Lyft plan to introduce a fully self-driving service, but it looks like GM’s SuperCruise, a highway driving system similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, is closer to market.


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