GM's latest self-driving auto has no steering wheel or pedals

GM's latest self-driving auto has no steering wheel or pedals

The company submitted its federal safety proposal yesterday to put a robotic vehicle with no steering wheel or gas pedal on public roads in 2019. 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 include in a self-driving bill that was recently passed.

For the past several years, automakers and tech companies have been testing self-driving cars on the roads of California.

The automaker on Friday revealed images of an autonomous vehicle it's hoping to put into production by 2019 and is petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for permission to do so.

"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.

The new vehicles, unveiled for the first time today, are the fourth generation of GM's driverless cars that are being powered by its self-driving arm, Cruise. Before they can officially be on the market, GM has to pass safety tests and get approval from the federal government.

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This will be one of the first self-driving vehicles in commercial passenger service and among the first to do away with manual controls for steering, brakes and throttle.

GM plans to build up to 2,500 of the robot cars a year at its Orion, Mich., assembly plant, where 1,000 people work in an area the size of 75 football fields. Since the robot auto would not have a steering wheel, it would instead have an air bag in the left front seat - now a passenger seat - that mirrors the one in the right front seat.

Only seven states now allow cars without drivers (though in practice there are virtually none, because the technology is still being perfected).

In October, Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google's parent company, released a safety report of its own. The steering wheel and pedals will be gone, giving total control to the machine. Earlier in the fall, the federal government had requested more safety details from the self-driving vehicle industry.

"Once we get that approval from the federal government, we will be cleared to deploy these vehicles", said Paul Hemmersbaugh, GM chief counsel and public policy director.

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