General Motors reveals autonomous auto with no steering wheel

Self-driving technology "is only going to have a big impact if we can deploy it at large scale", GM's chief financial officer, Dan Ammann, said in an interview with New York Times. "That's why we believe this is a notable moment on the journey to full AV deployment".

GM calls the Cruise AV the "first production-ready vehicle designed from the start without a steering wheel, pedals or other unnecessary manual controls", though the four-door seems largely to be a Chevrolet Bolt EV with an sensor- and radar-clad exterior and a de-contented interior.

GM's submission explains how it will provide airbag protection for all Cruise AV occupants in the absence of a steering wheel. Responding to questions about when and where the vehicles would be tested, Vogt had a one-word answer: "2019". By 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that allowed autonomous vehicles on public roads without a backup human driver or a steering wheel and pedals, but only in specific areas.

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Cruise AV will be the fourth generation of GM's driverless, all-electric Chevy Bolts, which are being tested at present in San Francisco and Phoenix, online publication TheVerge.com writes.

"Our vehicles are on the road in communities across the US navigating some of the most challenging and unpredictable driving environments", the Cruise website said.

A photo of the interior is all we have to go on, but judging by the fact that it looks like a Chevrolet Bolt EV interior with the steering wheel, pedals, gauges, and shifter Photoshopped out, we think it's a safe bet that the auto will be a modified Bolt EV.

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GM also released today a safety report for its self-driving cars, becoming the second automaker to do so. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Consumer Federation of America are releasing a poll today that shows "significant and widespread concerns" among the US public about the development and deployment of self-driving cars. The automaker and companies including Alphabet's Waymo unit and startup Zoox have demonstrated cars that can drive with so-called Level 4 autonomy.

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.

GM said its vehicle is created to safely operate among aggressive drivers, bicyclists, unprotected left turns, jaywalkers, delivery trucks and four-way stop signs.

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This glimpse at the near-future comes a month after GM made the bold announcement that it would have a fully driverless taxi fleet up and running in 2019.

  • Ryan Wade