General Motors is reportedly preparing to kick off its own commercial self-driving taxi business beginning in San Francisco next year, Bloomberg reports. It’s no secret that the American vehicle manufacturer has long been planning to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service, though there was previously no word on where the company will initiate the business. While General Motors has not indicated in the past that it would be starting its self-driving taxi business in San Francisco, the company’s rumored decision to pick that city comes as no surprise since its Cruise subsidiary began providing an autonomous ride-hailing service to employees in that area as part of a beta test that kicked off in August last year.
As part of efforts to launch its commercial ride-hailing service in 2019, General Motors allegedly tested a ride-hailing app called Cruise Anywhere and built 18 charging stations in San Francisco, according to Bloomberg’s report citing sources privy to the company’s self-driving plan. It remains unclear, however, whether the Detroit-based automaker will operate the business on its own or seek a partnership. The ride-hailing app is supposed to let drivers book a ride using their mobile device anytime and anywhere in San Francisco. General Motors’ fleet of autonomous vehicles is mainly comprised of modified Chevrolet Bolt electric cars. The company’s self-driving push gained a big boost last month after SoftBank moved to invest $2.25 billion through the Japanese holding company’s Vision Fund. The goal of the investment is to help the American vehicle manufacturer accelerate the development of its ride-hailing service in select areas, a move that has been widely approved by investors.
General Motors’ plans to launch a self-driving taxi service by 2019 was revealed last November, with up to 25 new electric models set to be released by 2023. Since then, the company has made significant strides in testing its self-driving vehicles in recent times. Last May, General Motors subsidiary GM Global Technology Operations filed for a patent titled “Automated Co-Pilot Control For Autonomous Vehicles” aimed at helping self-driving vehicles operate more accurately. General Motors is currently awaiting authorization from the United States Department of Transportation before starting full commercial operations next year.