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12 January 2018, 04:33 | Cameron Gross
GM unveiled the Cruise Automation. It is the latest version of its autonomous vehicle and the manual controls have been removed
The carmaker's self-driving arm, Cruise Automation, on Friday unveiled the latest version of its autonomous vehicle - and the manual controls have been removed.
Versions of the vehicle with driver controls are now being tested in San Francisco and Phoenix. Eventually, it should serve in ride-hailing services in cities across the U.S.
General Motors Co (GM.N) is seeking USA government approval for a fully autonomous auto - one without a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal - to enter the automaker's first commercial ride-sharing fleet in 2019, executives said. Along with a display on the center stack, there are infotainment screens in the headrests of the front seats for rear passengers to use.
Other companies, from Uber to Waymo, have been testing self-driving vehicle prototypes in limited ride sharing applications, but have been less explicit than GM in announcing plans for commercial robo-taxi services.
GM said that it has filed a safety petition with the Department of Transportation for the vehicle, which the company claims is now "production-ready". It says these aren't relevant because the vehicle doesn't have manual controls.
But there are some logistical hurdles for GM to clear for what Wired calls its "robo-chariot", including getting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to let 2,500 of the cars (the maximum number allowed) off the hook on 16 safety requirements, such as having an airbag in the steering wheel-moot as there's no steering wheel. GM's petition with DOT is meant to gain a waiver or exemption for their wheel-less vehicle. That's the maximum number the government will now allow for each manufacturer.
Reuters reports that GM has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 16 alterations to current vehicle safety laws.
The Cruise AV will be able to operate in hands-free mode only in premapped urban areas. Arizona is one possible destination, as Cruise is already testing some of its other vehicles there, and the state's regulations are friendly to autonomous vehicles. They feature a large array of sensors on the roof that will be engineered to pass crash tests with the rest of the vehicle.
The company declined to identify the first states in which it plans to launch the vehicle or say when it would begin testing.
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