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GM hopes its customers will help it make maps for self-driving cars

Self-driving cars will need detailed maps to help them get around, and General Motors believes the solution could lie in the crowd. The Detroit carmaker is looking to combine Mobileye mapping technology with crowd-sourced data from its OnStar telematics customers.

GM is already Mobileye’s largest customers, and is involved in the Mobileye Road Experience Management project, which seeks to create a continuously-updated road map. The carmaker believes installing Mobileye software on camera-equipped vehicles, and using OnStar as a conduit for the data, can create more accurate maps more quickly. Those maps would then be used to help self-driving cars know their surroundings.

Many GM cars are already equipped with cameras anyway. They’re used for driver-assistance systems like adaptive cruise control. And the company has the capability to pull data from vehicles using its OnStar link; it’s been mulling ways to capitalize on that capability for some time.

Related: GM unveils car sharing program for the Big Apple

Under this scheme, OnStar would presumably do the mapping work by just driving around, a much simpler option than dedicated camera cars like the ones used for Google Maps. Toyota actually discussed a similar concept at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Like GM, it plans to use data from cameras already installed in production cars to create maps for future self-driving cars.

As for the cars themselves, GM announced at CES that it is partnering with Lyft to develop an “integrated network of on-demand autonomous vehicles in the U.S.” GM will invest $500 million in the ride-sharing company, and will join its board of directors. The move places Lyft in direct competition with Uber, which is conducting its own autonomous-car research.

In addition, GM plans to deploy a fleet of autonomous 2017 Chevrolet Volts at its newly renovated Warren Technical Center in Michigan. The self-driving Volts will shuttle employees around the facility, their movements coordinated by a ride-sharing app.