GM VP: Autonomous cars "the ultimate safety objective"

General Motors will look to self-driving cars to boost safety, as the company attempts to emerge from the $900m black cloud of its Justice Department settlement. The deal, which will also see GM cough up to pay for three years of independent safety monitoring, was announced yesterday: among its terms, the Justice Department will defer charges for three years and, assuming GM toes the line, drop them after that.

In a speech to employees today, CEO Mary Barra reiterated her apology to victims and families of the victims affected by the flawed ignition switches installed in several million cars.

"I have said many times how sorry I am for what happened," Barra said. "On behalf of all of us, I have apologized to the families who lost love ones and to those who were injured. I do so again today. We let these customer down in this situation. We didn't do our jobs."

Barra's speech was followed by an appearance from Executive Vice President of Global Product Development and Global Purchasing and Supply Chain Mark Reuss, who outlined some of the organizational changes the company has put in place since.

He also highlighted the increasing investment into self-driving technologies, which will take responsibility out of human hands and, the exec predicts, make it part of the remit of more skilled computers.

"Technology is advancing quickly, from autonomous vehicles to alternative propulsion and beyond, and we're working it from all angles, and we're dedicating a significant amount of investment and people to deliver what the future of transportation demands," Reuss told the assembled GM employees. "Automation is, after all, the ultimate safety objective."

The upcoming Cadillac CT6, for instance, will feature semi-autonomous "Super Cruise" driving.