General Motors has revealed the Cruise AV, the first production-ready vehicle to lack two critical features: a steering wheel and pedals. However, this will be subject to local law allowing fully autonomous cars - with no safety driver - on the public road in the first place. As defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, cars at that level can drive without human intervention but only in certain geographic areas.
For instance, the current (and voluminous) Federal Motor-Vehicle Safety Standards document assumes a steering wheel that contains an airbag for the driver.
GM sees the announcement Friday as a significant step toward the widespread adoption of self-driving vehicle technology.
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The company declined to identify the first states in which it plans to launch the vehicle or say when it would begin testing. Its Firefly prototype had no steering wheel or pedals and in 2015 took a blind man for what the company called "the world's first truly self-driving trip".
GM wants to control its own self-driving fleet partly because of the tremendous revenue potential it sees in selling related services, from e-commerce to infotainment, to consumers riding in those vehicles.
For the past several years, automakers and tech companies have been testing self-driving cars on the roads of California. In late 2017, GM announced at an investor event in San Francisco it would launch self-driving vehicles meant for deliveries and ride-hailing services in five US markets in 2019. All other companies combined had five accidents.
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The automaker is seeking approval from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration to operate as many as 2,600 of the vehicles, according to TechCrunch.
General Motors has just unveiled ambitious plans to mass product a self-driving auto that would truly change the way we drive, as GM's autonomous vehicle would ship without a steering wheel or pedals.
Manufacturers can get around those standards by petitioning NHTSA for exemptions, provided they demonstrate that the exempted vehicle will be at least as safe as a conventional one. That's the maximum number the government will now allow for each manufacturer.
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However, GM would still need to get permission from most states to operate cars with no human drivers. The petition also requests for the permission to have 16 security requirements in a unique way, says Paul Hemmersbaugh, a Public Policy Director and Chief Counsel at General Motors.