General Motors is getting ready to ditch the driver for good—at least in its newest R&D vehicles. In 2019, Cruise—the self-driving startup acquired a couple of years ago by GM—wants to begin testing the fourth generation of its autonomous vehicle, the Cruise AV. (This is a modified Chevrolet Bolt EV, no relation to the Chevrolet Cruze.)
The company has filed a safety petition with the US Department of Transportation requesting permission to deploy the fourth-generation Cruise AV, which will be completely driverless, without any steering wheel, pedals, or other form of manual controls.
According to The Verge, part of the request has to do with ensuring passenger safety despite the car not conforming to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard regulations. For instance, it lacks a steering wheel, therefore it lacks a steering wheel-mounted airbag. As GM President Dan Amman explained, “[w]hat 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, and that’s what the petition seeks to get approval for.”