GM debuts self-driving vehicle with no steering wheel

GM's planned Cruise AV driverless car features no steering wheel or pedals. General Motors  Handout via Reuters

When GM starts testing its autonomous electric sedan in San Francisco ride-sharing fleets, it'll likely be the first production-ready vehicle on the roads without the tools to let a human assume control. Instead, the auto has several interior screens that passengers can use to communicate with the vehicle.

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.

GM said it's filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) to test the cars.

GM sees the announcement Friday as a significant step toward the widespread adoption of self-driving vehicle technology.

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In October, Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google's parent company, released a safety report of its own.

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.

The Cruise Automation team is now testing its self-driving Chevy Bolt - with a human backup - in Detroit, Phoenix and San Francisco. Waymo announced in November that it was removing test drivers from the front seat. It has previously pointed to the challenges of testing in dense urban areas. Cruise's auto had to navigate construction blocking the lane more than 18 times as often in the Bay Area and had to deal with emergency vehicles 270 times, versus six Phoenix encounters, according to the report.

"It's quite striking", said GM President Dan Ammann, describing the vehicle. GM also needs approval from the individual states it wants to run the cars in. 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. It also asks permission to meet 16 safety requirements "in a different way", Paul Hemmersbaugh, GM's chief counsel and public policy director for transportation and service, said on a conference call.

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