General Motors seeks United States approval for auto with no steering wheel

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The first mass-produced driverless auto without a steering wheel will be made by General Motors, which said yesterday that it aimed to have the vehicles on U.S. roads next year.

Next year, General Motors Co. will no longer need an engineer in the front seat babysitting the robot brain that controls its self-driving Chevrolet Bolt.

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 autonomous cars now being tested by major companies still have manual controls.

GM has revealed what its level 4 self-driving vehicles will look like, as you can see from the video below.

"We are asking NHTSA to give us permission to meet the safety standards through a different approach because we can't achieve them now without a human driver or steering wheel", Hemmersbaugh said. The Cruise AV, he said, has an airbag that mirrors the right front-passenger side that provides equivalent safety. Arizona is one possible destination, as Cruise is already testing some of its other vehicles there, and the state's regulations are friendly to autonomous vehicles.

GM Cruise AV Interior
GM Cruise AV Interior General Motors

GM, Zoox, Waymo and others have all tested Level 4 cars, but usually with a driver still at the wheel to take over in case the system doesn't work properly.

Of course GM is not the only company working on these technologies but it's made the first move and we'll have to wait and see if it pays off.

Ford announced on Tuesday that it would partner with delivery service Postmates as the carmaker starts testing ways to transport people, food and packages this spring in its self-driving cars, which are being developed by Ford's Argo unit. Automakers have pushed for a set of consistent nationwide standards to allow them enough scale to flawless the technology, but safety advocates have criticized the pending legislation as too lenient and a risk to public safety.

GM has been working towards the building of self-driving cars as it acquired startup Cruise Automation to help develop self-driving vehicles and invested at least $14 million to expand the company's development work. According to the automaker, the modified Bolt EVs navigate their surroundings using data from no fewer than 21 radars, 16 cameras and five LiDAR sensors. GM released a photo and video renderings of the vehicle January 12. "In the last 18 months, we've worked to rapidly and iteratively integrate this technology into a production-ready vehicle".

Cruise has driven "hundreds of thousands of complex urban miles" in the self-driving cars, Vogt has said.

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