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12 January 2018, 04:30 | Brandon Parsons
GM, Cruise ready self-driving car with no steering wheel or brake pedals
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.
"GM's integrated development of hardware and software, and testing in one of the most complex environments in the world, allows for the company to safely eliminate the steering wheel, pedals, and manual controls from the new Cruise AV", the company said in a statement. Along with a display on the center stack, there are infotainment screens in the headrests of the front seats for rear passengers to use.
This will be one of the first self-driving vehicles in commercial passenger service and among the first to do away with manual controls for steering, brakes and throttle.
"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.
Cruise isn't just showing this of as a concept of what's to come - the company is submitting a petition to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration to be able to actually deploy it in 2019, the year when GM and Cruise revealed they wanted to start operating their commercial service late last year.
GM sees the announcement Friday as a significant step toward the widespread adoption of self-driving vehicle technology. 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.
GM executives said the automaker has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to allow 16 alterations to existing vehicle safety rules, to enable the deployment of the Cruise AV. 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.
The Uber and Waymo test vehicles still have steering wheels and pedals.
That would let the firm launch a fleet of robo-taxis, beating off competition from rivals to launch such a service.
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