General Motors Wants to Deploy Self-Driving Cars With no Steering Wheels Next Year

General Motors has announced that its latest self-driving car, the Cruise AV, will not feature any sort of manual controls such as pedals or a steering wheel. The company plans to mass produce and deploy the vehicles in 2019.

Self-driving cars are becoming more advanced with each new generation but they’re still missing one key feature: they can still be driven by a human pilot. So while these types of cars are already pretty good at driving themselves, a pilot is still required to stand by as a precautionary measure, at least for now. If General Motors have their way, however, this won’t be the case for much longer. The company revealed on Friday that its next big move is to mass produce cars that not only drive themselves but also don’t feature any sort of manual controls like pedals or a steering wheel.

The ambitious plan was announced during the last day of CES 2018 and just ahead of next week’s highly anticipated Detroit Auto Show. General Motors assigned the project to its Cruise branch, which is currently working on the fourth generation of autonomous vehicles dubbed Cruise AV. This model is an offshoot of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, cars which can currently be spotted driving themselves in San Francisco, California, and Phoenix, Arizona. The self-driving cars will also make their way to Manhattan later this year, as well as a number of other cities in the near future. As for the upcoming model, General Motors plans to mass produce and launch the vehicles as early as next year.

Now, while GM may have the means to go through with this plan, the cars still need to comply with safety standards before they are allowed on the roads. As you might imagine, this is an unprecedented situation so there’s probably a lot of paperwork involved, however, General Motors is already taking certain steps towards their goal. To that end, the company has recently submitted a petition to the US Department of Transportation asking for permission to deploy the vehicles. Along with this announcement, GM also made public a 33-page safety report detailing the new model and its capabilities.

Given that the Cruise AV doesn’t feature traditional controls, the car will not be able to comply with all the current safety standards. However, General Motors hopes that it can persuade the Department of Transportation to allow the deployment of the Cruise AV by coming up with new solutions to meet the standards without changing what makes the car special. For example, GM President Dan Amman notes that the mandatory steering wheel-mounted airbag cannot be present on the Cruise AV since the car doesn’t have a steering wheel. As a solution, Amman proposes installing a side airbag for the passager that would fulfill the same purpose as a steer wheel-mounted one.

If you want to see the Cruise AV self-driving car in action make sure to check out the video below.

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