General motors (GM) He promised to catch Tesla (TSLA) in electric cars by the end of the current decade.
But the old automaker isn’t behind its big competition in self-driving cars, another segment that’s part of the auto industry’s future.
In fact, its subsidiary Cruise, which specializes in developing independent technologies, appears to have an advantage because a few months ago the company was authorized to operate a robotaxi service in San Francisco.
These self-driving vehicles are allowed to take people anywhere they want to go in the city from 10 pm to 6 am and only when there is “no heavy rain, thick fog, thick smoke, hail, sleet or snow”.
The California Public Utilities Commission said last June that riding is limited to “select streets in San Francisco,” and participating cars can drive at a top speed of 30 miles per hour.
At home chips
It is this advantage that GM does not want to lose as its competitors continue to improve their technology.
For example, Tesla just rolled out its latest version of its Full-Self-Driving software to 100,000 of its car owners, the advanced option from Autopilot, its driver assistance system. Although the FSD enables Elon Musk group vehicles to perform important maneuvers on their own, the system does not make them autonomous.
General Motors via Cruze has just decided to start producing chips that power its autonomous vehicles. The goal is to reduce dependence on third-party suppliers and cut costs at a time when a shortage of semiconductors has forced automakers to temporarily suspend assembly of some models.
Today, the waiting time between semiconductor ordering and delivery has increased sharply. The problem is that technology-laden autonomous vehicles require more chips than other vehicles.
“Two years ago, we were paying a lot of money for [graphics-processing unit] Karl Jenkins, vice president of hardware engineering at Cruise, said in an interview with Reuters. He pointed out that Nvidia (NVDA) a prominent maker of graphics processing units.
He added, “There are no negotiations because our size is small. We can’t negotiate at all. That’s why I said, OK, then we have to control our destiny.”
Production will start in 2025
Unhappy with Nvidia’s practices, Cruise decided to develop its own chips, which will be used in the Origin, its model with no pedals and no steering wheel, expected in 2023.
The Origin, introduced in 2020, was designed as a shared vehicle. You will be rolling all the time, picking up passengers and dropping them off at different destinations.
General Motors’ decision puts the company in the driving seat of its future in self-driving cars. The company also joins with Tesla and Volkswagen (VLKAF) Which decided to reduce its dependence on semiconductor manufacturers by designing its own internal chips.
Cruz has already developed four chipsets: a computer chip called Horta, which is the brain of the car; A sensor data processor called Dune, an unnamed third chip that will process information from the radar chip, and an unnamed chip that will be identified later.
The company began developing its in-house chips in 2020. The technology is still in an experimental stage but production will start in 2025.
The type of chips that Cruise designed uses ARM processors. It’s the same type of semiconductor used in phones and tablets because it conserve energy. The company asserts that it will improve energy efficiency by reducing the power consumption of Origin.
By developing internal chips, Cruise hopes to gain control of its supply chain and lower the cost of self-driving vehicles. General Motors has made no secret of its ambition to sell as many self-driving vehicles as possible before the end of the decade.