General Motors president Mark Reuss believes that autonomous vehicles “will change people’s lives forever, just as the automobile itself did more than a hundred years ago.”
Leaders of The Henry Ford and its venue The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation believe that, as well. The venue has acquired one of General Motors’ first self-driving test vehicles, a modified pre-production Chevrolet Bolt EV.
The Henry Ford president and chief executive officer Patricia Mooradian said in a news release that “self-driving capabilities will fundamentally change our relationship with the automobile.”
“As the home of the historic vehicles that have shaped that relationship today, this acquisition is paramount in how we tell that story in the future,” she said.
The Henry Ford notes that the pre-production Bolt EV is one of GM’s first test vehicles to operate on public roads autonomously. Representing a milestone for The Henry Ford as well. It is the first autonomous car to be added to the museum's collection.
The vehicle is now on display next to the 1959 Cadillac El Dorado and is located near the entrance of the Driving America exhibit inside Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.
“The Henry Ford is a treasured institution where past and present innovations are documented and displayed, and GM is proud to provide our autonomous test vehicle to serve as an inspiration to the innovators of tomorrow,” Reuss said.
The vehicle’s features give it a feel of being a car of the future. GM developed the Bolt EV in close collaboration with software startup Cruise Automation, according to Henry Ford. The vehicle is equipped with cameras, radar and LIDAR sensors as well as an on-board computer. Using a sensing system and compute platform, the vehicle can “observe the world around it in 360 degrees” and make near real-time decisions to navigate the road safely, Henry Ford noted. The venue added that by the summer of 2016, more than 40 test vehicles were on the streets of San Francisco, Calif., and Scottsdale, Ariz.
Henry Ford notes that serious experiments with self-driving vehicles began around the mid-1920s. General Motors’ “Futurama” exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair featured a display of imagined automated highways guiding cars by radio control. GM and RCA in the 1950s built a section of test road equipped with electromagnetic circuits to control vehicles along the route.
GM and Cruise Automation are now working on the Cruise AV, which they say is the first production-intent self-driving car without any manual controls.
“Industry leaders and analysts largely agree that autonomous vehicles are coming to the consumer market. It’s not a matter of if, but of when,” The Henry Ford noted in a news release.
The Henry Ford curator of transportation Matt Anderson noted that the self-driving vehicle is “the most fundamental shift in what a car should be since the Model T turned the automobile into an everyday item.”
“While this first-generation test vehicle was quickly followed by more advanced versions, it made a bold statement that a major auto manufacturer was ready to move quickly on making self-driving cars a reality,” Anderson said.