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GM aims to sell self-driving cars by middle of this decade

This Jan. 27, 2020, file photo shows a General Motors logo at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant in Hamtramck, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

(CNN) — General Motors CEO Mary Barra said Wednesday during CES tech event in Las Vegas that the automaker hopes to sell self-driving cars to consumers by the middle of this decade.

GM has missed its own self-imposed self-driving deadlines in the past. The automaker claimed back in 2017 that it would be mass producing fully autonomous vehicles by the end of 2019, which didn’t occur. Tech experts have said for years that several technological breakthroughs may be needed before self-driving vehicles go mainstream.

When GM’s self-driving subsidiary Cruise demonstrated a fully autonomous ride with no human test driver behind the wheel last year, the trip took place near midnight. Late-night conditions are generally far easier for self-driving vehicles as there’s less traffic, cyclists and pedestrians, which can prove challenging for a fully autonomous vehicle to handle.

Barra’s remarks at CES seemed to acknowledge that the path ahead for its self-driving vehicles is no sure thing.

“We aim to deliver our first personal autonomous vehicles as soon as the middle of this decade,” Barra said. “We are working to be the fastest to market with a retail personal autonomous vehicle.”

Most autonomous vehicle developers have focused on offering the technology as a service, such as robotaxis, rather than in a vehicle that people own. The parts needed for a self-driving car are expensive, like lidar, which may make owning one cost-prohibitive. When self-driving vehicles are used in a service the costs can be spread out across many riders.

Barra said that GM’s self-driving company, Cruise, is continuing to work on Origin, a six-seat vehicle that it unveiled two years ago as a purpose built self-driving vehicle. The team is on track to begin charging a fee for autonomous rides or deliveries in the coming months.

Barra did not say which GM vehicles would first be sold in a fully autonomous model. GM has historically launched its latest driver-assist features on its Cadillac vehicles. It also unveiled a sleek concept of an autonomous Cadillac that could sit two people Wednesday at CES.

GM made its announcement just weeks after Dan Ammann, the CEO of its self-driving company Cruise, suddenly departed without a successor in place. GM did not give a reason for his departure. Cruise’s chief technology officer Kyle Vogt is servicing as interim CEO.