Q&A: GM CEO Mary Barra on the Promise and Potential of AVs

Business Roundtable
May 6 · 2 min read

Q&A with Mary Barra, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors Company

Q: What is the greatest benefit of autonomous vehicles for American families and communities?

Barra: I know that everyone is really interested in the cool technology angle, but we’re most passionate about the safety benefits. In truth, many of the building blocks of the autonomous future are already in today’s cars and help to keep families safe, but there’s enormous opportunity to eliminate the human error that causes more than 90% of all fatalities in the U.S. We’ve laid out a vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion — and autonomous technology will be key to delivering that future.

Q: What is the greatest risk introduced by autonomous vehicles, and how do we address it?

Barra: As with the introduction of any new technology, safety must be the gating factor. That is our approach and we believe that to be safe, a self-driving system must be seamlessly integrated into the vehicle.

Also, ensuring that self-driving vehicles are subject to the same strict standards for safety and quality as mass produced vehicles is critical. That’s why we build our test self-driving cars on the assembly line in Orion, MI alongside our Chevrolet Bolt EVs.

Q: Autonomous vehicles may make sense in bigger cities, but what are the advantages for rural areas?

Barra: Safety and greater access to mobility are compelling benefits that apply to both cities and rural areas. City driving conditions provide the fastest learning curve for testing autonomous vehicle technology, and all of those learnings will apply when the technology spreads to suburban and rural communities. There are so many people living across America today, including the elderly, visually impaired or those facing other challenges who are excluded from mobility and who will truly benefit from self-driving technology.

Q: How can federal policy support such AV technology for a safe, inclusive and up-to-date mobility system?

Barra: Federal legislation would provide a path to allow manufacturers to put self-driving vehicles on the roads safely, while allowing continuing innovation. To deliver the safety and mobility benefits of self-driving vehicles, we need to prevent a state-by-state patchwork of regulations. A federal regulatory framework that would update Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for self-driving vehicles and that clarifies state and federal regulatory roles will be critical.

Business Roundtable

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