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12 January 2018, 04:46 | Jodi Jackson
General Motors Facebook via CNN
In late 2017, GM announced at an investor event in San Francisco it would launch self-driving vehicles meant for deliveries and ride-hailing services in five USA markets in 2019.
The Cruise AV is GM's fourth-generation self-driving auto. Eventually, it should serve in ride-hailing services in cities across the U.S.
Kyle Vogt, the chief executive officer at Cruise Automation, a software developing unit for GM's driver-less cars, based in San Francisco, said in a statement that, "What's really special about this is if you look back 20 years from now, it's the first vehicle without a steering wheel and pedals". Instead, the auto has several interior screens that passengers can use to communicate with the vehicle.
This glimpse at the near-future comes a month after GM made the bold announcement that it would have a fully driverless taxi fleet up and running in 2019. They feature a large array of sensors on the roof that will be engineered to pass crash tests with the rest of the vehicle.
If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives permission to the petition filed by General Motors, the company could manufacture as more as 2500 driver-less vehicles of this type every year. It says these aren't relevant because the vehicle doesn't have manual controls.
GM is part of a growing throng of vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and tech startups seeking to develop so-called robo-taxis over the next three years in North America, Europe and Asia. The government views the exemptions as a way to bring the benefits of autonomous vehicles to public roads while regulators are still adapting existing laws for the new technology.
The Cruise AV will be able to operate in hands-free mode only in premapped urban areas. 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.
"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.
For instance, the current (and voluminous) Federal Motor-Vehicle Safety Standards document assumes a steering wheel that contains an airbag for the driver. Waymo announced in November that it was removing test drivers from the front seat.
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