GM Petition for Driverless Ride-Hailing Fleet Under Consideration
The petition by General Motors for permission to legally put driverless vehicles on the road with no steering wheels or pedals is very much on the radar of Elaine Chao, U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
Addressing attendees of the North American International Auto Show, Chao said the Department “will review this petition, and give it responsible and careful consideration.”
Last Thursday GM showed the Cruise AV, a sedan based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV with four passenger seats and no human driving controls because it relies on computers, radar, camera, and sensors to do the driving. It is fourth-generation software developed with Cruise Automation, the company GM bought in 2006. The plan is to have a ride-hailing autonomous fleet on the road in 2019.
But GM needs to meet state regulations as well as federal to put up to 2,500 robo-rides on public roads. The automaker on Thursday filed a petition for exemptions from 16 motor vehicle safety regulations where the language does not apply to driverless vehicles. For example, there are standards for airbag deployment in a steering wheel but these vehicles won’t have a steering wheel. GM is proposing solutions that apply to their cars and achieve the same safety goals.
The response should be favorable as Chao said autonomous vehicles have “tremendous potential to enhance safety” with faster reaction times, 360-degree vision and the ability to see at night while people are better at providing context to driving situations. The reality is 94 percent of traffic accidents involve human error and a disproportionate amount of highway fatalities are in rural areas so efforts must extend beyond smart cities.
Chao wants the public and private sectors to lead the development and testing of the new technology that is still being met with a healthy dose of public mistrust.
The Trump administration will release its updated guidance for self-driving cars this summer covering vehicles, transit, and infrastructure. Chao said the plan will be updated as often as necessary to keep up with the speed of innovation in this area.
The Department “will not be in the business of picking winners or losers,” she said, or favoring one form of technology over another.