GM has unveiled what it's calling the first production-ready car without a steering wheel or pedals.
The company's fourth-generation Cruise AV, which also has no manual controls, was designed to operate completely on its own — no human driver necessary. GM on Friday said it has filed a Safety Petition asking the Department of Transportation for permission to deploy the self-driving vehicle in 2019.
"General Motors' mission is to bring our vision of a world of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion to life," the company wrote in a new Self-Driving Safety Report [PDF]. "Safely developing and deploying electric self-driving vehicles at scale will dramatically change our world."
To realize this vision, GM says it has "engineered safety into the Cruise AV in every step of design, development, manufacturing, testing and validation." The vehicle features cameras to spot pedestrians, cyclists, and traffic lights as well as high-precision laser sensors to detect both fixed and moving objects, articulating radars to keep an eye on moving vehicles over a wide field of view, long range radar that can measure other vehicles' velocities, and short-range radar to notice other objects around the vehicle.
"With its advanced sensor systems, the Cruise AV has the capability to see the environment around it, in 360 degrees, day and night," GM wrote in its report. It can "identify pedestrians in a crosswalk, or an object darting suddenly into its path, and to respond accordingly. It can maneuver through construction cones, yield to emergency vehicles, and react to avoid collisions."
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GM plans to use the vehicles as part of an autonomous ride-sharing service.
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"When we deploy our self-driving vehicles, customers will use a mobile app to request a ride, just like they use ride-sharing today," the company wrote in its report. Riders will be able to control the vehicle's temperature and radio station, and a touchscreen inside will offer real-time status information about the ride. If a passenger has a problem, they'll be able to connect with support staff or end the ride with the press of a button.
GM has been testing its self-driving vehicles on the busy streets of San Francisco, where one recently collided with a motorcyclist, who was taken to the hospital, according to Ars Technica. The company also plans to soon start testing them in New York City.
In 2014, Google introduced a self-driving prototype without a steering wheel or pedals. When California approved autonomous road tests, however, it initially required those vehicles to have them, so a human could take over during an emergency. So Google added them back. By 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that allowed autonomous vehicles on public roads without a backup human driver or a steering wheel and pedals, but only in specific areas. That will expand this year.
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