Will the US government accept GM's request?
It all began last January when General Motors revealed the Cruise AV, an autonomous car based on the Chevrolet Bolt EV that was missing two key ingredients: a steering wheel and pedals. There's simply no reason for them because the Cruise AV is a fully autonomous vehicle. According to GM President Dan Ammann, it will be the first production-ready passenger car to have no manual controls. At the time of its unveiling, it was illegal for the Cruise AV to be deployed on American roads, but this could change very soon.
Reuters reports the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently holding talks with GM about its petition issued earlier in the year requesting the government to change its rules regarding the production and testing of self-vehicles without steering wheels or other human controls.
Self-driving vehicles, such as those from Uber, have steering wheels and pedals along with an actual human being behind the wheel serving as a backup (although this has not been problem-free). NHTSA Administrator James Owens confirmed the agency will soon make a decision about GM's request. "I expect we're going to be able to move forward with these petitions soon – as soon as we can," Owens stated. "This will be a big deal because this will be the first such action that will be taken." Just last week, GM CEO Mary Barra privately met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to discuss the petition.
The NHTSA has been studying GM's petitions, which consist of formal applications for action seeking exemption from US vehicle safety rules first written decades ago that figured human drivers would always be in control of a vehicle.
Other automakers and technology firms are surely monitoring these discussions closely because the petitions are for up to 2,500 vehicles per manufacturer. GM originally hoped to have had approval by the end of the year but hit a slight snag in July when its self-driving unit, Cruise, requested additional testing time.
But it sure sounds like the NHTSA and GM are in the final discussion stages and a decision could be announced early next year. "We're in communication with them about how they are ensuring the safe operation of the vehicle," Owens said. "We will continue having a back and forth with them."