American carmaking giant General Motors is looking to break away from its competitors in the self-driving market by announcing that it is hoping to launch cars without a steering wheel or pedals by 2019.
At a time when autonomous driving has become a key objective for the automotive industry, US carmaker General Motors is looking to take a dominant position in the market by launching cars with no steering wheel or pedals by 2019. Its goal in doing so is to steal a march on rivals Ford, who have announced that they hope to introduce the selfsame type of cars by 2021. GM president Dan Ammann described the car as the group’s “first production-ready vehicle designed from the start without steering wheel”. As reported by the website Numerama, GM’s initial intention is to launch a driverless ride-hailing service offered by vehicles based on those it is currently trialling in San Francisco.
A conventional passenger compartment in a ground-breaking car
Given its aim of making such a futuristic car, GM might have been expected to come up with an experimental design for the car interior, with seats facing each other as on a train or offering unobstructed views of the passing landscape. The passenger compartment is entirely conventional, however, and resembles that of the fourth-generation Chevrolet Bolt, the only difference being the lack of a steering wheel and pedals. The space where the driver would ordinarily sit is entirely symmetrical with the front passenger seat.
Technological advances, delays in legislation
One task awaiting General Motors’ with regard to its ambitious project is to persuade the USA’s road safety authorities to grant it the necessary regulatory exemptions. As it stands, its innovative car is far from compliant with existing legislation, as Ammann explained: “A car without a steering wheel can’t have a steering wheel airbag. What we can do is put the equivalent of the passenger side airbag on that side as well. So it’s to meet the standards but meet them in a way that’s different than what’s exactly prescribed.”
The GM president added that legislation is, on a general level, lagging behind the increasingly fast developments being made by autonomous driving, a technology he believes will change the world. The question is, will that legislation evolve sufficiently by 2019? As it waits for it to do so, the US carmaker is continuing to conduct public trials of its self-driving taxis in the streets of California. Available day and night, seven days a week, the cars go by the name of Cruise and are available for use through an Uber-style app, though only for GM employees.
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