DETROIT: General Motors Co is seeking for the first time in the automotive industry.
For passengers who can not open doors, the Cruise AV – a rebranded version of GM's Chevrolet Bolt EV – has even been designed to perform that task. It will have other accommodations for hearing and visually impaired customers.
This will be one of the first self-driving vehicles in commercial passenger service and among the first to do with manual controls for steering, brakes and throttle. What is the driver's seat in the Bolt EV will be the front left passenger seat in the Cruise AV, GM said.
Company President Dan Ammann told reporters GM had on the day for the approval of the “first production-ready vehicle designed from the start without a steering wheel, pedals or other unnecessary manual controls.”
GM is part of a growing throng of vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and tech startups seeking to develop the so-called robo-taxis over the next three years in North America, Europe and Asia. Most of those companies have one or more partners.
Ford Motor Co said on Tuesday it will be with a delivery service Postmates Inc. is the automaker of the Ford of Argo unit.
Other companies, from Uber Technologies Inc to Alphabet Inc's Waymo, have been testing self-driving vehicle prototypes in limited-ride sharing applications, but they have been less than GM in announcing plans for commercial robo-taxi services.
GM executives said the automaker has been asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to allow 16 alterations to existing vehicle safety regulations – such as having an airbag in what would normally be the driver's seat, but without a steering wheel – to enable the deployment of the Cruise AV.
The automaker would then need to obtain the same approval from individual US states. GM executives said seven US states already allow the alterations sought by the automaker. In other states – including those that stipulate a car must have a licensed human driver – GM will work with regulators to change or get a waiver from existing rules.
The company declined to identify the first states in which it would start testing the vehicle.
GM wants to control its own self-driving fleet, partly because of the tremendous revenue, from e-commerce to infotainment, to consumers riding in those vehicles.
At a Nov 30 briefing in San Francisco, GM's Ammann told investors that the lifetime revenue of one of its self-driving cars could be “several hundred thousand of dollars.” That compares with the US $ 30,000 (RM119,139) on average that GM collects today for one of its vehicles, mostly derived from the initial sale.
GM's Cruise AV is equipped with the automaker's fourth-generation self-driving software and hardware, including 21 radars, 16 cameras and five lidars – sensing devices that use laser light to help autonomous cars “see” nearby objects and obstacles.
The Cruise AV will be able to operate in the hands-free mode only in pre-mapped urban areas.
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 US $ 1bil (RM3.97bil). – Reuters