General Motors says it is making the first mass-production autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals. Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt also said we likely won't see this new Cruise AV on streets even in a test capacity before next year. Instead, the auto has several interior screens that passengers can use to communicate with the vehicle. It says these aren't relevant because the vehicle doesn't have manual controls.
Other companies, from Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] to Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Waymo, have been testing self-driving vehicle prototypes in limited ride sharing applications, but have been less explicit than GM in announcing plans for commercial robo-taxi services.
Cruise isn't just showing this of as a concept of what's to come - the company is submitting a petition to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration to be able to actually deploy it in 2019, the year when GM and Cruise revealed they wanted to start operating their commercial service late last year.
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. That's the maximum number the government will now allow for each manufacturer.
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. Cruise accounted for 22 of the 27 autonomous vehicle crashes in California in 2017.
This includes having an airbag in what would normally be the driver's seat, but without a steering wheel.
GM and Cruise also released a safety report that provides a lot of detail about what measures they've put in place to keep the vehicle safe on streets. The layout, which the Verge calls "kind of eerie", features a dashboard with a console situated smack in the middle of the driver and passenger seats, with nothing but "blank real estate" in front of both.
That would let the firm launch a fleet of robo-taxis, beating off competition from rivals to launch such a service.