General Motors pushes for self-driving car tests sans steering wheel

The Detroit-based automaker is in talks with NHTSA about getting approval to evaluate such vehicles on public roads.

Craig Cole Former reviews editor
Craig brought 15 years of automotive journalism experience to the Cars team. A lifelong resident of Michigan, he's as happy with a wrench or welding gun in hand as he is in front of the camera or behind a keyboard. When not hosting videos or cranking out features and reviews, he's probably out in the garage working on one of his project cars. He's fully restored a 1936 Ford V8 sedan and then turned to resurrecting another flathead-powered relic, a '51 Ford Crestliner. Craig has been a proud member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).
Craig Cole
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Aside from the lidar emitters up top, and the livery on the side, you'd have a hard time telling this Bolt EV apart from a regular one.

Cruise Automation

Flying cars may still be the stuff of science fiction, but self-driving vehicles are much closer to reality. It seems every automaker and supplier company these days is hard at work developing this technology, including GM.

Pushing forward into the future, Reuters reported Friday this venerable Detroit-based firm is in talks with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to test a number of self-driving vehicles on public roads. Normally, this would hardly be news as plenty of other companies have done exactly the same thing. What's different here is that GM is looking at evaluating cars without any human controls, including steering wheels. These would likely highly modified versions of the Chevy Bolt.

Does that thought terrify you? It probably should, since similar systems in both road-going vehicles and aircraft, notably Boeing's 737 Max family of jets, have been under intense scrutiny in recent years.

GM Autonomous Bolt EV Testing Michigan

All that self-driving hardware may not be pretty, but it gets the job done.

General Motors

GM filed a petition with NHTSA back in January 2018, asking for the ability to test autonomous vehicles without human controls. The government agency is still reviewing this request, but it sounds like the automaker will be given the green light next year.

James Owens, NHTSA acting administrator said, "I expect we're going to be able to move forward with these petitions soon -- as soon as we can." His organization is still going through various petitions. They want to make sure any self-driving vehicles are at least as safe as other cars and trucks on the road.

Also speaking to Reuters, U.S. transportation secretary Elaine Chao weighed in on this situation. She said, "I think the complexity was far greater than what a lot of very optimistic advocates were thinking," which is probably why it's taking so long to approve GM's request.

Waymo, a division of Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, has been testing a small number of self-driving minivans in Arizona. The vehicles are part of a limited ride-sharing service. Unlike what GM is asking for, these vehicles still have steering wheels and pedals, but some rides have phased out the human backup driver.

Waymo's autonomous Pacifica cruising through Castle

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Watch this: Audi AI:Trail: An autonomous off-roader with its own fleet of drones