GM wants to make autonomous vehicle with no traditional controls by 2019

GM wants to make autonomous vehicle with no traditional controls by 2019

Before they can officially be on the market, GM has to pass safety tests and get approval from the federal government. The vehicles will travel on a fixed route controlled by their mapping system, and the Detroit-based automaker is applying for federal permission to run the test cars without a driver. If there's a problem, the vehicle will slow down, pull over to the roadside and stop. The automaker and companies including Alphabet's Waymo unit and startup Zoox have demonstrated cars that can drive with so-called Level 4 autonomy. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, self-driving cars can drive without human intervention but only in specific geographic locations.

GM's submission explains how it will provide airbag protection for all Cruise AV occupants in the absence of a steering wheel. What is the driver's seat in the Bolt EV will become the front left passenger seat in the Cruise AV, GM said.

About 50 test vehicles from that generation have been undergoing tests in a geographically restricted area of downtown San Francisco. 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". More recently, it dispensed with safety drivers, though the vans still has steering wheels.

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GM has announced, as Motor Trend notes in its coverage of the FMVSS application, that testing will expand to Phoenix early this year and New York City before the end of 2018. Instead, the auto has several interior screens that passengers can use to communicate with the vehicle. 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.

GM purchased driverless tech startup Cruise Automation for a reported $600m in 2016, and a year later it acquired Strobe, a company which GM thinks can help it cut the cost of manufacturing autonomous vehicle sensors by 99 percent. In a November interview, GM President Dan Ammann attributed the accidents to testing in a dense urban environment and noted the company's cars weren't at fault in any of the incidents. In the event of approval to its petition, the automaker could build up to 2,500 of these vehicles per year, though it has to yet commit to a firm production plan. The company submitted its federal safety proposal yesterday to put a robotic vehicle with no steering wheel or gas pedal on public roads in 2019. That's the maximum number the government will now allow for each manufacturer. GM also needs approval from the individual states it wants to run the cars in.

"When you don't have a steering wheel, it makes no sense to talk about an airbag in a steering wheel", Paul Hemmersbaugh, GM's policy director for autonomous vehicles, told reporters.

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