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Mary Barra: The Future of Personal Mobility is Autonomous

In today’s rapidly changing, connected world, automakers are moving beyond the traditional manufacturer role to global mobility solutions provider developing new services that make consumers’ lives easier. That was the message General Motors CEO Mary Barra delivered during keynote remarks at the Forum.

“There’s not a more exciting time to be in the automotive industry than right now,” Barra said. “The GM of today is not the GM of 15 years ago.”

While she declined to give a timetable for full implementation of autonomous vehicles on roadways, Barra said connectivity and autonomous driving will play a large role in improving lives in the next decade by mitigating congestion, pollution and traffic accidents.

Barra pointed to GM’s urban mobility strategy – consisting of the automaker’s ride-sharing investment in Cruise Automation and partnership with Lyft – as ways the company is leading in solutions to transportation challenges in crowded cities or rural areas inaccessible by traditional forms of transit.

GM is also at the forefront of innovation in fuel efficiency. A point of pride for the company is the fully electric Chevrolet Bolt that will hit the market in 2017, Barra said.

Addressing questions about Michigan’s leadership in next-generation mobility, Barra said she feels the state is taking the right steps to position itself as the epicenter of research and development through regulatory reform and collaboration.

For its part, GM is also working with public and private stakeholders to create the largest vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) corridor in the United States on 120 miles of metro Detroit freeways. It also will bring its SuperCruise semi-autonomous driver-assist technology to market next year on the Cadillac CT6.

All of that technology is a safety and cybersecurity concern, Barra admitted.

“GM is committed to expanding and evolving its cybersecurity,” she said, adding that the company routinely provides incentives to “white hat” hackers to find vulnerabilities in vehicle systems.

“As you put more technology on a vehicle, it is hugely important to design systems that keep out attacks from external sources,” Barra said.

In addressing a question on attracting and retaining talent from moderator KC Crain Jr., Barra said it’s all about giving young people a sense of purpose.

“People want to do cool things and feel like they can change the world. Once we get them to Detroit, they quickly learn that they love it here,” she said.


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