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GM Exceeds Landfill-Free Goal, Starts Testing Autonomous Vehicles

General Motors (GM) has begun testing fully autonomous development fleet vehicles on public roads in Michigan, starting with roads nearby its Technical Center in Warren. | Image credit: General Motors/3BL

General Motors (GM) achieved a record number of landfill-free facilitiesin 2016, exceeding its commitment four years early. The company now operates 152 global facilities that recycle, reuse or convert to energy all waste from daily operations, including 100 manufacturing sites and 52 non-manufacturing sites.

“We are committed to manufacturing cars and trucks for our customers in a safe and responsible way,” said Alicia Boler Davis, GM’s executive vice president of Global Manufacturing. “While we continue to increase the reuse of byproducts, our vision is to eliminate waste by applying the most advanced manufacturing processes and technologies in our plants globally.”

GM operations in more than ten locations became landfill-free this year, including sites in Talegaon, India; Flint, Madison Heights and Grand Blanc, Michigan, U.S.A.; Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A.; Quito, Ecuador; Cairo, Egypt; Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Oshawa, Ontario, Canada; Toluca, Mexico; São Caetano do Sul, Brazil; and Bogota, Columbia. Most of the sites function as distribution centers or assembly plants. Adding its Toluca, Mexico foundry, which melts and molds metal for auto components, to the list this year means that none of GM’s manufacturing operations in Mexico send waste to landfills.

All GM European Opel/Vauxhall manufacturing plants have been landfill-free since 2015, and the company’s global headquarters, the Renaissance Center in Detroit, became landfill-free in 2013. The latter houses the Western Hemisphere's tallest all-hotel skyscraper, 11 other businesses, 20 restaurants and 27 retailers; it accommodates 12,000 office workers and 3,000 visitors daily.

Altogether, GM recycles or reuses 2 million metric tons of byproducts a year, which has reduced the company’s need to buy virgin materials. The company says it has generated up to $1 billion from recycling in recent years, and reinvests that money into business initiatives such as the development of fuel-efficient vehicles and other new technologies “shaping the future of personal mobility.”

“We view sustainability as a business approach,” said John Bradburn, GM’s global manager of Waste Reduction. “We look at ways we can grow and strengthen our business for the long term, and that often means reducing our environmental footprint while maximizing social benefit.”


In another announcement this week, the company said it has begun testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in Michigan, and will produce the next generation of its autonomous test vehicles beginning in early 2017.

 “Revolutionizing transportation for our customers while improving safety on roads is the goal of our autonomous vehicle technology, and today’s announcement gets us one step closer to making this vision a reality,” GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said in a statement released Thursday. “Our autonomous technology will be reliable and safe, as customers have come to expect from any of our vehicles.”

Testing is already underway on GM’s Technical Center campus in Warren, Michigan, and with the passage of the SAVE Act legislation will now expand to public roads on the facility’s outskirts. Within the next few months, testing will expand to metro Detroit, which will become GM’s main location for development of autonomous technology in winter climates.

Workers at the Orion Township assembly plant will build test fleet Bolt EVs equipped with fully autonomous technology. The plant currently manufactures the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Sonic. The new equipment will include LIDAR, cameras, sensors and other hardware designed to ensure system safety, leveraging GM’s proven manufacturing quality standards.

The test fleet vehicles will be used by GM engineers for continued testing and validation of GM’s autonomous technology already underway on public roads in San Francisco and Scottsdale, Arizona, as well as part of the Michigan testing fleet.

The announcements round-out a year of significant progress on autonomous vehicle technology development for GM. In January 2016, the company announced the formation of a dedicated autonomous vehicle engineering team and a $500 million investment in Lyft to develop an integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the U.S. In March, the company announced the acquisition of Cruise Automation to provide deep software talent and rapid development expertise to help speed development. In June, GM began testing autonomous Chevrolet Bolt EVs on the public roads in San Francisco and Scottsdale. The company has more than 40 autonomous vehicles testing in the two cities.


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