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General Motors is asking regulators for exemptions to federal safety standards so that it can put a self-driving car without a steering wheel or brake pedal onto U.S. roads as soon as next year.
The Cruise AV, based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV, would be a significant milestone on the road to self-driving cars.
There’s no accelerator planned, either, in the automated vehicle that GM says will be ready for production next year. As a first step toward rolling it out, GM filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for an exemption from federal safety standards.
“It’s the first vehicle built from the ground up to operate safely with no driver, steering wheel, pedal, or manual controls,” said Ray Wert, a spokesman for GM. “These are vehicles that are designed to drive safely on their own.”
Most of the self-driving cars on the road today have a steering wheel and brake pedal so that a human can take over if needed. And in most areas of the country where testing is taking place on public roads, local authorities have required that companies have test drivers on hand to take over in case of an emergency. A vehicle with no manual controls is another psychological threshold the industry believes it has to cross to win public acceptance.
There’s some evidence that won’t be easy. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Consumer Federation of America are releasing a poll today that shows “significant and widespread concerns” among the U.S. public about the development and deployment of self-driving cars.
Under current law, it’s illegal to deploy vehicles on public roads if those vehicles don’t meet all of the existing federal regulations. GM has said its first production automated vehicles will be in some kind of ride-hailing or ride-sharing arrangement. It owns a stake in Lyft and currently operates the ride-sharing company Maven in 11…