GM Says Electric Shift Will Take Years, AV Closer than We Expect

Speaking on Leadership Live with David Rubenstein, Mary Barra argued that the transition from gas-powered cars to electric ones would happen over the course of many years. Moreover, she predicted that not every car would be electric by 2040.

“I think it’ll happen over a period of years and decades,” Barra said. “When you look at the transition that needs to occur, there’s about 250 million U.S. cars in the car park. And so, transitioning all of them is going to take some time.”

GM is working on new battery technology and bigger EVs like the GMC Hummer to attract more Americans to the electric market. The new generation of technology is coming along slowly, though, and many of GM’s competitors (Ford with the Mach E, VW with its ID line, Audi with its e-trons, Porsche, Mercedes, and even Jaguar) either electric SUVs on their way or on the road and have gotten more attention for their electric efforts.

It is worth remembering, though, that GM is one of just two manufacturers to have sold enough EVs to no longer qualify for full federal tax incentives. While that shows that the Bolt has been popular, it may make selling its cars a little harder.

Barra was more bullish about the odds of having autonomous vehicles on the road soon.

“I definitely think it will happen within the next five years,” Barra predicted. “Our Cruise team is continuing to develop technology so it’s safer than a human driver. I think you’ll see it clearly within five years.”

Cadillac is among the leaders in the autonomous space. Its Super Cruise allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel for extended periods of time on divided (and now some two lane) highways across the US and Canada.

Although the system still requires the driver to pay attention, thanks to mapping technology, cameras, radar, and a bevy of sensors, the technology has so far been safely whisking drivers down the road. Unlike Tesla’s autopilot, which though effective has caused confusion among owners, who have gone so far as to take naps behind the wheel, despite the system not being capable of handling that much responsibility.

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