No steering wheel, no problem. Or at least that's what General Motors wants the federal government to say. The automaker, which has been busy testing its self-driving cars on the busy city streets of San Francisco, has filed a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking the agency to allow the company to deploy driverless cars that do not have steering wheels or brake pedals by 2019.
The new vehicles, unveiled for the first time [Friday], are the fourth generation of GM's driverless cars that are being powered by its self-driving arm, Cruise.
All vehicles that are allowed to operate on public roads must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards -- 16 of which include human-driver-based requirements. GM is asking NHTSA to allow the company to meet those safety standards through alternate means -- a process that the House of Representatives intends to formalize in a self-driving bill that was recently passed.
"We are also working with industry groups and NHTSA to advance the development of new FMVSS that will (a) remove unnecessary roadblocks to new safety technology, such as self-driving vehicles, and (b) advance the safety of self-driving vehicle technology," GM wrote in a new safety report.
TK DOT response
Today, seven states -- Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, and Nevada -- allow for the deployment of vehicles without steering wheels or brake pedals. The FMVSS exemption, if granted, would theoretically give GM the ability to test these steering-wheel-less cars on public roads across the country.
While Alphabet's Waymo has been testing a car without a steering wheel in 2014, the company did not have to apply for an exemption of the FMVSS because the car was not driving at full speed.
During a press call on Thursday, GM said it expected to begin testing the cars in 2019 -- not necessarily rolling it out in a commercial capacity.
There's been a good deal of movement on the regulatory front for self-driving technology. The Department of Transportation announced on Wednesday that it would begin accepting public comment from stakeholders and concerned parties on the federal guidelines for self-driving cars, formally called A Vision for Safety 2.0.
Like Alphabet's self-driving cars, these Cruise cars [example, pictured above] will communicate with riders via an on-demand ride-hail app as well as in-car tablets. Passengers will be able to stop the ride at anytime by making a stop in the car. In the case of an emergency, passengers will be able to access GM's OnStar automatic crash-response system.
According to the company's newly published safety report, after a crash, the vehicle will enter a "safe state" by braking and bringing the car to a stop.
"Built-in sensors will automatically alert an OnStar Advisor, who will be connected promptly to see if a passenger needs help and to communicate with first responders on the scene," the safety report reads. "If passengers don't respond, an OnStar Advisor uses GPS technology to pinpoint the exact location of the vehicle and request that emergency help be sent immediately."
The company did not disclose what the production timeline for the new generation of the vehicles will be.
© 2018 Re/Code
syndicated under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.