GM Plans a Car with No Steering Wheel in 2019


If the Department of Transportation grants GM's latest Safety Petition, the automaker will be able to deploy its no-steering-wheel, pedal-less autonomous car next year. GM has not only revealed what its level 4 self-driving vehicle would look like but also announced that it filed a Safety Petition to be able to deploy its utterly driverless version of Chevy Bolt called Cruise AV in 2019. The company describes it as "the first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals or manual controls."

The Cruise AV is much different from the self-driving Chevy Bolts GM is testing in California. It has no controls whatsoever, not even buttons you can push. It treats you as a passenger, no matter where you sit. The car can even open and shut doors on its own. Now, autonomous cars like this don't meet the Federal Motor Vehicle's safety standards. Automakers could apply for an exemption, but the government can only exempt 2,500 vehicles every year. GM President Dan Ammann said that the company is not seeking an exemption, though – instead, it wants to "meet that standard differently."

He explained:

"What we can do is put the equivalent of the passenger side airbag on that side as well. So, it’s 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."

Several automakers and transportation companies banded together last year to call for a change to those rules. "Without changes to these regulations," GM VP Michael Abelson told a subcommittee that time, "it may be years before the promise of today's technology can be realized and thousands of preventable deaths... will happen."

Automakers will have to see those changes come to light if they want their fully autonomous cars to hit the road. GM might beat them to the punch, but rival companies like Ford, Mercedes, and Waymo all plan to release cars with no steering wheels of their own.

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