GM just introduced a self-driving auto without a steering wheel

General Motors

General Motors

General Motors is looking to reinvent the wheel, by building a auto without a steering wheel, pedals or gear selector, because it doesn't need them.

"GM's integrated development of hardware and software, and testing in one of the most complex environments in the world, allows for the company to safely eliminate the steering wheel, pedals, and manual controls from the new Cruise AV", the company said in a statement. Instead, the auto has several interior screens that passengers can use to communicate with the vehicle.

This will be one of the first self-driving vehicles in commercial passenger service and among the first to do away with manual controls for steering, brakes and throttle.

GM wants to control its own self-driving fleet partly because of the tremendous revenue potential it sees in selling related services, from e-commerce to infotainment, to consumers riding in those vehicles.

GM reports Friday that it officially filed a safety petition with the Department of Transportation to put the Cruise AV sans steering wheel or pedals on roads by 2019 without a human backup.

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But there are some logistical hurdles for GM to clear for what Wired calls its "robo-chariot", including getting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to let 2,500 of the cars (the maximum number allowed) off the hook on 16 safety requirements, such as having an airbag in the steering wheel-moot as there's no steering wheel. The government views the exemptions as a way to bring the benefits of autonomous vehicles to public roads while regulators are still adapting existing laws for the new technology.

GM's prototype self-driving vehicles have been developed in San Francisco by Cruise Automation, the onetime startup that GM acquired in March 2016 for a reported $1 billion. They feature a large array of sensors on the roof that will be engineered to pass crash tests with the rest of the vehicle.

Cruise wouldn't say where it will eventually deploy the new vehicles or how soon the public will be able to ride in them. Waymo announced in November that it was removing test drivers from the front seat.

The company declined to identify the first states in which it plans to launch the vehicle or say when it would begin testing.

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