“It’s just surreal,” says General Motors CEO Mary Barra as she tests one of the company’s driverless cars in San Francisco, calling it a highlight of her career.
Barra took the trip last week in a retrofitted Chevrolet Bolt EV with Kyle Vogt, founder and interim CEO of Cruise, the automaker’s majority-owned subsidiary of autonomous vehicles. The self-propelled vehicle, called the Tostada, is one of a fleet of driverless cruise vehicles currently driving at night in San Francisco while the company prepares for the commercialization of operations this year.
“It was incredible,” Barra said in a video posted on Cruise’s YouTube page. Later added, “This is going to change the way people move in such a positive way … I’m over the moon.”
Vogt stepped down as CEO after Dan Ammann, a former GM director who led Cruise, was reportedly fired due to internal disagreements with Barra.
Autonomous vehicles are considered a potential trillion-dollar market. GM expects operations to potentially contribute up to $ 50 billion in annual revenue by the end of this decade. But commercializing self-driving vehicles has been far more challenging than many predicted even a few years ago.
The trip was Barra’s first in an unmanned vehicle without a safety driver.
Cruise began testing a completely driverless fleet of vehicles without human backup drivers late last year. In November, Cruise posted a video of Vogt during his first driverless trip in San Francisco.
The nearly three-minute video with Barra also includes GM President Mark Reuss and Craig Buchholz, senior vice president of GM communications, in another self-driving vehicle called the Disco.
Reuss calls the ride “incredible,” and discusses the vehicle’s performance and its potential impact on society, including seniors like his 85-year-old father, Lloyd Reuss, who also served as president of the automaker in the early ’90s.
GM bought Cruise in 2016. Since then, it has brought investors like Honda Motor, Softbank Vision Fund and more recently Walmart and Microsoft.