GM spelled out its plan for the rollout of self-driving cars yesterday. On an investor conference call, the automaker said that it planned a launch of self-driving taxis in 2019.

The not-too-distant launch date for the fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs is a direct challenge to other automakers and self-drive competitors like Waymo and Uber. Waymo has said it hopes to have a fleet ready next year, but other competitors have hinted at 2020 or further out.

GM is going big on the idea of self-driving cars because if the automaker runs a robot-taxi service, potential revenue for the company jumps from the $30,000 per vehicle that GM averages now, to "several hundred thousands of dollars," according to GM President Dan Ammann.

"If we continue on our current rate of change we will be ready to deploy this technology, in large scale, in the most complex environments, in 2019," Ammann said.

He added that it was safety that would ultimately decide when GM let the computer take the wheel and say goodbye to the driver.

GM had said previously that it expected self-driving cars to play an important role in the company's future, but this is the first time it has given such a detailed outline of its strategy. That includes building self-driving Bolt EVs at existing plants, using mass production expertise to drive down costs and quickly deploy in major markets. It's the only self-drive front-runner that can handle the building the entire car in-house.

CFO Chuck Stevens said that autonomous taxis could be bigger for GM than cars, with better margins. He also said that "we have a path to take 40 percent of the cost out of ride services." That could give the company a profit margin between 20 and 30 percent.

GM hasn't yet decided if the self-driving fleet will get a new name, or operate under an existing GM brand like Cruise, Bolt, or Maven.