GM says it's mass-producing self-driving vehicles without steering wheels, pedals

GM says it's mass-producing self-driving vehicles without steering wheels, pedals

Yolanda Curtis
January 12, 2018

General Motors on Friday revealed a self-driving vehicle devoid of a steering wheel and pedals.

All vehicles that are allowed to operate on public roads must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards - 16 of which include human-driver-based requirements. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, self-driving cars can drive without human intervention but only in specific geographic locations.

The concept shows a vehicle which has no mirrors, steering wheel or pedals, but it does have screens for every passenger and what appear to be two large, red emergency stop buttons in the roof and within reach of all passengers. For example, new cars must have an airbag in the steering wheel - but in this vehicle there will be no steering wheel. More recently, it dispensed with safety drivers, though the vans still has steering wheels.

Other companies, from Uber to Waymo, have been testing self-driving vehicle prototypes in limited ride sharing applications, but have been less explicit than GM in announcing plans for commercial robo-taxi services. This means we'll likely see it initially deployed in only a few select areas where GM has been testing its self-driving cars, such as in San Francisco and parts of MI. "When GM acquired Cruise, we began by installing our technology into existing cars as a retrofit strategy, and we knew that wouldn't scale".

GM plans to build up to 2,500 of the robot cars a year at its Orion, Mich., assembly plant, where 1,000 people work in an area the size of 75 football fields. All other companies combined had five accidents.

Kyle Vogt, the chief executive officer at Cruise Automation, a software developing unit for GM's driver-less cars, based in San Francisco, said in a statement that, "What's really special about this is if you look back 20 years from now, it's the first auto without a steering wheel and pedals".

GM said it's filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) to test the cars.

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.

The automaker would then need to obtain similar approval from individual USA states. Currently, only seven states allow the technology to be tested without a safety driver, said Paul Hemmersbaugh, GM's chief counsel and policy director for transportation as a service.

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