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General Motors plans drive into autonomous cars

The Chevrolet Volt on display at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit Image copyright AFP
Image caption GM has sold nearly 15,000 battery-powered Chevy Volt cars this year and now wants to develop an autonomous version.

General Motors plans to unveil a self-driving car next year as it embarks on a major push into new technology.

Executives told an investor meeting that GM hoped to have a driverless Chevy Volt ready for next year's event.

Technology for the car will be developed through partnerships with companies such as Mobileye, the Israeli software specialist.

The move will be financed in part from a three-year cost-cutting plan covering manufacturing and administration.

The move is in part a reaction to competition from companies such as Tesla and Google, whose plans for autonomous vehicles are well advanced.

But GM said that its leadership in the automotive industry would give it an edge against some of competitors as everyone struggles to develop artificial intelligence that can anticipate drives decision and road conditions.

"No one has solved all the technologic challenges," said Mike Abelson, GM vice president for program management.

Hire, not buy

The company also announced plans to develop technology to make ride-sharing easier.

It has launched two limited pilot programs in New York and Frankfurt to test apps and methods for sharing cars.

GM hopes to launch a city-wide programme in the US in 2016, although the carmaker did not say which city.

There is a growing number of people who would rather pay a fee to use a vehicle rather than own one, a potential big revenue stream if the market continues to grow.

GM also addressed shareholder concerns around diesel cars, as the crisis surrounding Volkswagen raises the possibility that Europe will toughen regulations.

Executives said they were prepared to ensure diesel cars met even tougher emission standards and that they did not expect this to impact on costs.

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