General Motors announced Friday morning, January 12 that it has asked the government for permission to put mass-produced, autonomous cars on the road without a steering wheel or any pedals by next year. Per the Financial Times, which notes this is the fourth generation of the company's autonomous vehicle in just 18 months, Ammann suggests more innovations may be forthcoming, noting that "the fourth generation will not be the last generation". Instead, the auto has several interior screens that passengers can use to communicate with the vehicle.
"When you don't have a steering wheel, it makes no sense to talk about an airbag in a steering wheel", Paul Hemmersbaugh, GM's policy director for autonomous vehicles, told reporters.
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.
The company said it has filed a petition with the US federal government seeking permission to put the vehicles on the road sometime next year with no human backup drivers. GM's petition with DOT is meant to gain a waiver or exemption for their wheel-less vehicle.
The Detroit-based motoring firm says the Cruise AV a rebranded version of GM's Chevrolet Bolt EV has even been designed to open doors for passengers
The fourth generation auto is production-ready, according to GM's Dan Ammann, who discussed the new vehicle on a press call announcing the news today. Cruise accounted for 22 of the 27 autonomous vehicle crashes in California in 2017.
The Cruise AV will be able to operate in hands-free mode only in premapped urban areas. Earlier in the fall, the federal government had requested more safety details from the self-driving auto industry.
GM and Cruise also released a safety report that provides a lot of detail about what measures they've put in place to keep the vehicle safe on streets. 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. This version is really remarkable, though, because it lacks brake and gas pedals, and any kind of manual steering wheel.
The company declined to identify the first states in which it plans to launch the vehicle or say when it would begin testing.