General Motors Co. (GM) will test a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric cars in a five-square-mile area in Lower Manhattan early next year, making the automaker the first in its industry to test autonomous cars in New York City.

The move is a power play, aimed at asserting GM's dominance in the race to develop accessible self-driving vehicles. It could also be a threat to New York City's more than 13,000 taxi drivers, as autonomous cabs are largely seen replacing human drivers down the road.

Engineers are currently mapping the area where the cars will traverse, chief of GM's Cruise Automation Kyle Vogt said, according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's office. Human safety operators will be in the cars as they're tested to collect data and take over should something go wrong.

Cruise Automation, which GM acquired last year, has been testing more than 100 self-driving Bolts in several markets, including traffic-congested San Francisco. New York is set to offer valuable challenges for self-driving technology, as bad weather and more aggressive drivers will "accelerate the timeline to deploying self-driving cars at scale," Vogt said. "New York City is one of the most densely populated places in the world and provides new opportunities to expose our software to unusual situations, which means we can improve our software at a much faster rate."

GM stock rose 0.24% to $45.87 in premarket trading Tuesday, Oct. 17. Shares are up over 30% since the start of the year.

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