General Motors has revealed the Cruise AV, the first production-ready vehicle to lack two critical features: a steering wheel and pedals.
This includes having an airbag in what would normally be the driver's seat, but without 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.
The all-electric runabout looks like a retrofitted Chevrolet Bolt EV - unsurprising, given the new Bolt EV serves as GM's self-driving platform - with a symmetrical dashboard that swaps the steering wheel and instrument panel for a mirrored layout of the passenger-side dash. The manufacturer is touting the vehicle as the world's "first production-ready vehicle" built with the sole goal of operating "safely on its own with no driver", a degree of independence known as "level 4 autonomy". Self-driving cars operate by GM's Cruise division have already been involved in some fender benders, usually involving other road users crashing into them. GM is now applying for permission from the federal government to run the test cars without a driver.
News of the new robot-taxi from GM comes in the form of a Safety Petition the company filed with the Department of Transportation. Their autonomous fleet was involved in six separate accidents in September 2017, all of which the company says were not caused by their vehicle, Reuters reported. These allow the self-driving auto to have a 360-degree view of its surroundings and anticipate the movement of objects within its vicinity.
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 feds suggested in 2016, and again past year, that tech companies and automakers working on self-driving cars voluntarily submit a safety checklist to the government in order to help keep tabs on this fast-moving technology.
In its proposal, GM asks the administration for alternative ways to meet the 16 federal driver-based requirements for operating on public roads.
Only seven states now allow cars without drivers (though in practice there are virtually none, because the technology is still being perfected).
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