After GM announced the plan the company’s shares rose as much as 1.1%.
After GM announced the plan the company’s shares rose as much as 1.1%.

GM Drops Steering Wheel and Gives Robot Driver Control

It will be the first car without a steering wheel and pedals

GM Drops Steering Wheel and Gives Robot Driver Control

Next year, General Motors Co. will no longer need an engineer in the front seat babysitting the robot brain that controls its self-driving Chevrolet Bolt. The steering wheel and pedals will be gone, giving total control to the machine.

When GM starts testing its autonomous electric sedan in San Francisco ride-sharing fleets, it will likely be the first production-ready car on the roads without the tools to let a human assume control. This is the first sign from a major carmaker that engineers have enough confidence in self-driving cars to let them truly go it alone, Bloomberg reported.

Kyle Vogt chief executive officer of Cruise Automation says that what is really special about the move is that GM’s robo-car is the first vehicle without a steering wheel and pedals. Cruise Automation is a San Francisco-based firm which is developing the software for GM’s self-driving vehicles.

After GM announced the plan the company’s shares rose as much as 1.1%.

GM will run the cars in a test batch for a ride-sharing program starting in 2019, and they will not be without a safety net. The vehicles will travel on a fixed route controlled by their mapping system, and the Detroit-based automaker is applying for federal permission to run the test cars without a driver.

GM’s experiment will be a significant step forward for self-driving cars. The automaker and companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit and startup Zoox Inc. have demonstrated cars that can drive with so-called Level 4 autonomy. As defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers, cars at that level can drive without human intervention but only in certain geographic areas.

GM, Zoox, Waymo and others have all tested Level 4 cars, but usually with a driver still at the wheel to take over in case the system does not work properly. Removing the driver will really test the technology, said Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Toyota Research Institute. “If you are testing Level 4 technology with a driver, you are not really testing it at level 4,” he said last week.

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