Why GM's Testing Of Fully Self-Driving Cars In Manhattan Is So Key

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General Motors (GM) will early next year start testing self-driving cars in lower Manhattan, a setting that could allow GM to advance and commercialize its autonomous technology at a faster pace.

XAutoplay: On | OffTesting in the densely populated and challenging streets of New York City will hasten the process of deploying self-driving cars at scale, said Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise Automation, GM's recently acquired self-driving car unit. Cruise already has self-driving test cars on the road in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Detroit.

The fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric cars from GM will be tested in Manhattan in a "geofenced" area, meaning it is marked off with virtual boundaries using GPS technology. The test cars are Level 4 vehicles, meaning they are fully self-driving and can operate without a human driver under certain conditions.

However, they will have two personnel on board for oversight, GM said.

A Deutsche Bank analyst recently said the auto giant may have an edge over rivals in the race to take self-driving cars mainstream, though another analyst downplayed GM's technology edge

GM shares slipped 1% to 45.31 in afternoon trading on the stock market today but are still up 30% year to date and have advanced 24% since its Sept. 1 breakout from a cup-with-handle base with a 36.73 buy point. Ford Motor (F) rose 0.6%, Tesla (TSLA) advanced 1.1% and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) lost 2%.

IBD'S TAKE: GM stock has displayed impressive relative strength in recent weeks, but can it continue to hold above this key benchmark often seen in the best growth stocks?

Automakers are jostling with technology companies as the momentum behind driverless cars continues to grow. Alphabet (GOOGL), like GM, is testing self-driving cars in California and Arizona.

Nvidia (NVDA) last week unveiled a new AI-driven computer for fully autonomous vehicles and will partner with a German logistics giant to test a fleet of self-driving delivery trucks next year.

While GM will be the first to conduct "sustained testing" of fully autonomous cars in New York, Audi of America performed New York state's first self-driving demo in June, according to the governor's office.

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