(Adds details on lidar technology, background)
Nov 30 (Reuters) - General Motors Co said on Thursday it expects the commercial launch of self-driving vehicles in dense urban environments in 2019.
The No.1 U.S. automaker — which views electric and autonomous vehicles as the keystones of future transport — said it believes government regulations will support development of self driving cars in the coming few years.
GM, like rival automakers and technology leaders including Alphabet Inc, has poured billions into autonomous vehicle research, although fully self-driving cars are a work in progress.
It expects robo-taxi services to be the main use for its self-driving vehicles.
GM has enjoyed a recent surge in its share price, as investors bet on its plans for self-driving and electric cars, although the company’s profit is driven entirely by demand for trucks and SUVs in North America, and its growing sales in China.
The company on Thursday added that it expects to reduce the cost of long-range lidar sensors to $300 from $20,000, but did not provide a clear timeline.
In October, GM bought lidar sensor technology company Strobe Inc, saying the company’s technology could lower the cost of the key laser-based sensor on self-driving cars by 99 percent.
Lidar, which relies on light pulses reflected off objects to gauge their position on and near the road, is seen by most automotive experts as one of the crucial elements for full self-driving cars and has become a prime focus. (Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)