Today, General Motors announced that it plans to mass produce self-driving cars that will not include traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. It is a bold declaration for the future of driving from one of the country’s Big Three Automakers.
The car will be the fourth generation of its driverless, all-electric Chevy Bolts, which are currently being tested on public roads in San Francisco and Phoenix. And they will roll off the assembly line of GM’s manufacturing plant in Orion, Michigan, they will be deployed as ride-hailing vehicles in a number of cities.
GM’s president Dan Ammann told The Verge “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide-scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls, And it’s an interesting thing to share with everybody.”
The announcement occurs at the same time in CES, where a number of big companies announced their own plans to deploy autonomous vehicles, and right before the Detroit Auto Show, where a number of trucks and SUVs will be on display.By committing to rolling out fully driverless cars in a shortened timeframe, not only GM will get an advantage over other firms but it would also make the technology and cars of other rivals old.Ford has said it that it will build a steering-wheel and pedal-less autonomous car by 2021, while Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, is preparing to launch its first commercial ride-hailing service in Phoenix featuring fully driverless cars (though still with traditional controls).
GM also provided a sneak peek of how its new, futuristic car will look from inside. In the video below, you can see that how the car will look from inside.
The automaker submitted a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for permission to deploy a car that doesn’t comply with all the federal safety standards.Ammann said the company wasn’t seeking an exemption from the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, just a new way around a few of the requirements.
GM is proposing to meet the standards in a different kind of way. Ammann said. “A car without a steering wheel can’t have a steering wheel airbag,” he said. “What we can do is put the equivalent of the passenger side airbag on that side as well. So its to meet the standards but meet them in a way that’s different than what’s exactly prescribed, and that’s what the petition seeks to get approval for.”
GM made this announcement to herald the release of its first 33-page safety report to the US Department of Transportation. The feds suggested in 2016, and again last year, that tech companies and automakers working on self-driving cars voluntarily submit a safety checklist to the government in order to help keep tabs on this fast-moving technology. GM is only the second company working on autonomous vehicles to have submitted its report, Waymo being the first.
GM breaks its safety assessments into 12 sections: safety system; operational design domain; object and event detection and response; fallback (minimal risk condition); validation methods; human-machine interface; vehicle cybersecurity; crashworthiness; post-crash behavior; data recording; consumer education and training; and federal, state, and local laws.
There were some standout elements in the announcement made by GM, such as GM’s argument st why it’s testing in San Francisco is more important than its suburban testing.
While we also test vehicles in Phoenix, our San Francisco vehicles predict an average of 32 times as many possible interactions as those in Phoenix. Thus, San Francisco challenges our self-driving system more because, as the number of objects increase, there are exponentially more possible interactions with objects that the self- driving system must consider.
The safety report excludes certain information, like the number of times that human safety drivers were forced to take control of their driverless vehicles, or the number of accidents in which GM’s cars were involved.Cruise Automation, GM’s self-driving unit, told California regulators that its cars were in six crashes in September 2017 alone. Under state law, companies with a license to test autonomous vehicles are required to disclose all accidents, even when they are not at fault.
Speaking of accidents, GM has not one, but two data recorders in each of its autonomous vehicles to store and protect information in the event of a crash. The collected data includes information from the car’s sensors, vehicle actions, and any malfunctions that occur.
The report and the announcement about GM’s first fully driverless vehicle is sure to impress investors, the automaker has been on a buying spree, acquiring both Cruise and LIDAR startup Strobe to help it become a “full-stack” autonomous car company. It also plans to roll out at least 20 new electric cars by 2023, a goal that puts it in a position to bring battery-powered driving to the mainstream.
Ammann says it what gives GM a leg up over its rivals. “We believe this technology will change the world,” he said. “And we’re doing everything we can to get it out there at scale as fast as we can.”