Veteran automaker General Motors have asked federal transportation authorities to allow changes in existing safety regulations so they could field an autonomous version of their Chevy Bolt, now called the Cruise AV, by 2019.
The reason for the Safety Petition? Well, if you’ve seen the Cruise AV, it’s not similar to other driverless cars currently around. This one really doesn’t want you to drive it. The Cruise AV doesn’t have any steering wheel and pedals.
In light of this unusual design, GM has filed the Safety Petition to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on January 11, to allow for 16 changes to existing traffic safety rules, including having an airbag in place of where the steering should be.
The petition is for the “first production-ready vehicle designed from the start without a steering wheel, pedals or other unnecessary manual controls,” GM president Dan Ammann told reporters, according to Reuters. Similar petitions would also be sent to local transportation authorities, but GM said that seven states already permit the changes they needed to test the Cruise AV. Still, for the Cruise AV, GM has to negotiate with states that explicitly require a licensed human driver behind the wheel.
Legislation to allow carmakers to test driverless vehicles on U.S. roads with less hassle — called the SELF DRIVE act — is still pending approval in the Senate, although it has already been passed by the House of Representatives.
Others question the relative ease by which autonomous vehicles get fielded or tested. On the other hand, car makers point out that the strict safety standards required to test these cars could delay progress in the field. While it might seem like GM is asking for a special treatment, they really aren’t, Ammann told The Verge. They simply want to “meet that standard in a different kind of way.”
Autonomous car manufacturers have been rather busy the past year with numerous tests of their driverless technologies. GM is among them, having received approval from New York state officials, as well as a public demonstration of the Cruise AV back on November 2017.
GM, which is the first company to mass produce autonomous vehicles, presumably in preparation for a 2019 test of their driverless fleet, has also been testing a ride-sharing app for their driverless cars.