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Self-driving taxis from GM and Lyft may hit the road within a year

Taxi riders may soon be able to enjoy a ride around town in self-driven taxis without having to take the “scenic route.”

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A Lyft Inc. executive told The Wall Street Journal about a pilot program in which General Motors and Lyft will start testing self-driving taxis with real customers within a year that could include electric vehicles.

Taggart Matthiesen, Director of product at Lyft Inc., said the program could involve a self-driving Chevrolet Bolt, a GM-made GM 1.41% electric car due out later this year.

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Proponents of cutting carbon emissions from transportation have called the combination a “best case scenario” that could reduce pollution per mile by as much as 94 percent by 2030, according to a Nature Climate Change paper last year (ClimateWire, July 7, 2015).

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“It’s much faster than I had expected,” said study author Jeffery Greenblatt, an energy researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“I had said 2030, and here we are already with companies jumping in to be first ones.

“It shows that there is a strong business case,” he added. “I hope that pans out in testing and that they are as useful and low carbon as we estimated that they are.”

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The program would be a milestone in the partnership between General Motors and Lyft, which began in January with a $500 million investment by the automaker.

Uber Technologies Inc., an online transportation network company, which is larger than Lyft, has its own self-driving research center in Pittsburgh. Alphabet Inc.’s Google has already tested self-driving cars on public roads in California. Tesla Motors Inc.’s electric cars have autonomous driving features like self-parking. Small electric driverless buses have started testing on European roads.

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Google’s RX 450h self driving car

So far, California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Washington D.C. have passed state legislation to allow self-driving car testing on public roads.

The addition of electric vehicles would cut fuel use to zero, but the overall emissions depend on the region. A car that plugs into a clean grid in New York would pollute significantly less than one that plugs into a coal-powered grid in the Midwest.

Self-driving taxis