General Motors drops steering wheel, gives robot driver control

Lucy Bush
January 14, 2018

"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", explains Reuters, possibly netting "several hundred thousands of dollars" over a vehicle's lifetime versus the, say, $30,000 it earns selling a auto. "We believe the best way to bring self-driving technology to the world is to expose them to the same unique and complex traffic scenarios human drivers face every day".

The legal problem in testing the vehicles is that standards require compliance through tests with a human driver and manual steering, acceleration and braking controls.

As well as beating Google's self-driving division Waymo to delivering a truly driverless production vehicle, General Motors will also leap ahead of the original pioneer Ford, who plan to build a auto without a steering wheel or pedals by 2021.

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The means the Cruise AV - a fourth generation autonomous vehicle based on the Chevy Bolt EV - is in total control.

As noted from the interior photo, the Cruise AV is clearly based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV. That enables the automaker to "safely take the next step - elimination of the steering wheel, pedals and other manual controls". "And imagine a crowded city not filled with congested roads and parking lots and structures but with efficiently moving traffic and more space".

GM plans to mass-produce the cars for use as robot taxis in 2019.

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The move comes as Waymo, formerly known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project, prepares to launch a ride-hailing program outside of Phoenix using driverless Chrysler Pacifica Minivans.

The future of self-driving cars may arrive sooner than you think, if General Motors gets its way.

The carmaker has approached the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with sixteen changes to the existing safety rules to enable production of the autonomous vehicle. "So its to meet the standards but meet them in a way that's different than what's exactly prescribed, and that's what the petition seeks to get approval for". The automaker and companies including Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo unit and startup Zoox Inc. have demonstrated cars that can drive with so-called Level 4 autonomy. Current law caps the number of exempted vehicles at 2,500 vehicles per manufacturer per year. 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.

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