We are all used to human-driven motor vehicles but in the near future, you may not have to drive at all or even have any driving experience. This is thanks to Cruise Automation, General Motors’s (GM) self-driving arm, who is working on a driverless car that can maneuver roads all on its own. The car comes minus the manual controls, meaning there are no brake pedals, steering wheel or accelerator and you need no driving experience.
Permit to Maneuver Roads on Their Own
The popular automaker has requested the federal transportation authorities to agree to changes in the current safety regulations thus making it possible for them to manufacture an autonomous version of the Chevy Bolt model by 2019, which is at the moment being referred to as the Cruise AV.
As the current automotive safety regulations cover human-driven cars, GM is requesting that self-driving cars be exempted from certain clauses of the rules. GM has gone a step further to file for a safety petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that seeks approval for a total of 16 changes to the current traffic safety rules which include replacing the steering wheel with an airbag.
“When you don’t have a steering wheel, it makes no sense to talk about an airbag in a steering wheel. So what we do instead is put in an airbag that mirrors the right front passenger side, and show it provides equivalent safety.” GM’s policy director for autonomous vehicles, Paul Hemmersbaugh, told reporters.
Exemptions for 2500 Autonomous Vehicles
The GM president, Dan Ammann, confirmed that this petition covers the first production of ready vehicles that were already designed without the pedals, steering wheel and other manual controls. Although seven states have already permitted the changes necessary to test the Cruise AV, local transportation authorities would have to be sent similar petitions.
On the brighter side, in general, the federal government supports the autonomous vehicle’s technology and more often permits such exemptions. In total, GM is seeking exemptions for 2500 vehicles. This is also the maximum number of vehicles that the government is allowing exemptions for each manufacturer.
Despite this, the real task is getting the right venue to unveil this system. You can, however, be sure to keep your eyes on states that have overwhelmingly welcomed the self-driving technology without so much restriction like Arizona. GM has nevertheless performed its bulk tests in San Francisco.
Based in San Francisco, the Cruise AV is expected to be tested next year after which the fleet will operate as a ride-hailing service in cities all over the U.S. Cruise Automation has however not given a clear timeline as to when the public will be able to ride in the fully autonomous vehicles.
Although major companies are currently testing autonomous vehicles, GM is the only company with a fully self-driving vehicle, as in it doesn’t have control manuals. It is instead designed with several interior screens that enable passengers to communicate with the vehicle.
Keeping the Autonomy Technology Safe
A safety report Friday was released by Cruise. It contained details of a step by step strategy to ensure its vehicles are well prepared to safely drive on public roads. Cruise also took responsibility for the 22 out of the 27 driverless car crashes in 2017 in California. It has however in the recent past acknowledged challenges of testing in closely packed urban areas.
Companies such as GM, Zoox Inc and Alphabet have already proved that car can drive with the new level 4 autonomy. This level 4 autonomy allows cars to drive without any help from humans but in designated geographical areas.
GM does not lack competitors when it comes to the autonomous technology. Companies such as Waymo and Uber are also testing in Arizona even though their autonomous cars are still designed with pedals and steering wheels. Waymo plans to unveil a commercial service in Phoenix this year.
Despite challenges here and there, it is no doubt that several companies are pressing ahead with the self-driving cars and it looks like the autonomous technology is really ready to become a business very soon.