RISK: GM enters the driverless car game

"We have already developed a lot of this enabling technology because we saw this coming."

General Motors plans to run a fleet of self-driving hybrid Chevrolet Volts on its Detroit campus by late 2016.

The company is developing better sensor technology to handle heavy fog or ice patches and artificial intelligence to predict driver behaviour, says Mark Reuss, head of product development. GM is also researching precision mapping to guide the cars.

Read: What’s it really like in the driver’s seat of a driverless car?

“We have already developed a lot of this enabling technology because we saw this coming,” Reuss told Wall Street analysts.

GM said $5.5 billion in manufacturing, purchasing, information technology and administrative cost savings will help to pay for the investment needed for the new technology, even as the company increases its earnings.

Read: Driverless cars may lead to more commercial liability policies

“Some might find this massive change to be daunting, but we look at it and see the opportunity to be a disruptor,” CEO Mary Barra said.

GM President Dan Ammann told analysts that the personal car ownership model will remain in place for “quite some time.” But GM is experimenting with autonomous cars “so we’re right there every step of the way,” once that model changes.

 Read: Automakers race tech companies to produce autonomous cars

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Transcontinental Media G.P.