General Motors drops steering wheel, gives robot driver control

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"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", said Kyle Vogt, chief executive officer of Cruise Automation, the San Francisco-based unit developing the software for GM's self-driving cars.

Next year, General Motors Co. will no longer need an engineer in the front seat babysitting the robot brain that controls its self-driving Chevrolet Bolt. The company declined to say where it would like to launch the fleets, which customers would hail via an app and engage with via touchscreens inside the vehicles.

They have also stated that in order for this to happen, they had to put in a request for the government to allow such a vehicle to be commercialized which would make it the "first production-ready vehicle designed from the start without a steering wheel, pedals or other unnecessary manual controls".

The company showcased the Cruise AV, which gets a centre-stack and infotainment system design to current GM cars, but the big things missing are the steering wheel on the driver's side and of course the gear lever and all the pedals.

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The autonomous cars now being tested by major companies still have manual controls.

"We are asking NHTSA to give us permission to meet the safety standards through a different approach because we can't achieve them now without a human driver or steering wheel", Hemmersbaugh said. GM executives said seven U.S. states already allow the alterations sought by the carmaker. In other states, the automaker would have to work with local officials to change the rules. It is expected to expand to New York City in 2018.

"What's really special about this is if you look back 20 years from now, it's the first auto without a steering wheel and pedals", said Kyle Vogt, chief executive officer of Cruise Automation, the San Francisco-based group that has partnered with GM to develop self-driving cars told Bloomberg. These taxis will be used to transport people, food, and packages. Automakers have pushed for a set of consistent nationwide standards to allow them enough scale to ideal the technology, but safety advocates have criticized the pending legislation as too lenient and a risk to public safety.

Since acquiring Cruise Automation, a San Francisco-based startup in 2016, GM and Cruise developed four generations of self-driving vehicles. According to the automaker, the modified Bolt EVs navigate their surroundings using data from no fewer than 21 radars, 16 cameras and five LiDAR sensors. That compares with the $30 000 on average that GM collects today for one of its vehicles, mostly derived from the initial sale.

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