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Self-driving Chevy Bolts soon to hit metro Detroit streets

General Motors
A self-driving version of the Chevy Bolt

General Motors' CEO Mary Barra announced Thursday that the automaker will be testing autonomous vehicles on the streets of Detroit soon.

Self-driving Chevy Bolts are already being tested in California and Arizona.  The Bolt is GM's new long-range electric car.

Michigan's bad weather makes it ideal for the next place to test how safe and reliable self-driving cars can be, said Barra – on a day when the high temperature reached 16 degrees.

"This will be our main location for cold weather, as well as winter driving conditions," she said.

The self-driving Bolts will first be driven on roads surrounding GM's Warren campus, then in other metro Detroit locations.

Barra also announced that the next generation of GM autonomous vehicles will be manufactured at the Orion Township assembly plant. 

She predicted General Motors will be the first automaker to mass produce cars that can drive themselves. 

During a brief scrum with reporters after the press conference, Barra said GM will stand apart from other makers of autonomous vehicles, like Tesla.

"I think when you look at the fact that we have 100 years of really understanding vehicles," she said, "making sure that we have a safe, high quality vehicle, also we have really strong brands that really create a promise to the customer – we're going to incorporate that and provide an exceptional owner experience, using the Bolt technology, 238 mile range, that we have connectivity, 20 years of history, so when you take autonomous, electrification, connectivity, I think we will have a very special offering to the consumer."

Barra said she has not had the opportunity to talk with the president-elect after being named to the President's Strategic and Policy Forum. 

"But I'm very pleased that I'm going to have a seat at the table to talk about the important issues that are facing our industry," said Barra. 

Asked about the president-elect's criticism of NAFTA, she said, "We will work constructively with the president-elect to make sure we have a good balance of trade and make sure we do the right thing for the country and the global operations."

Asked about the president-elect's habit of targeting a company with tweets (Trump has criticized GM rival Ford Motor Company for building vehicles in Mexico, although GM and all other major automakers in the U.S. do the same) Barra again stressed "working constructively."

"I respect his decision on how he wants to communicate," said Barra. "There's a lot of new tools in communications these days, and I think working constructively to resolve issues, to seize opportunities, I'm fine with working with the president-elect to do that."

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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