For the past several years, automakers and tech companies have been testing self-driving cars on the roads of California. This is despite regulators casting a damp over testing even though those vehicles having steering wheels, foot controls and human backup drivers who could take over in case of an emergency. On Friday, General Motors Co. made the announcement that it plans to mass-produce a car with no steering wheel.
The car will be the fourth generation of its driverless, all-electric Chevy Bolts. The truly driverless car will roll off the assembly line of General Motor’s manufacturing plant in Orion, Michigan. All cars will be deployed as ride-hailing vehicles in a few cities.
“We’ve put together four generations of autonomous vehicles over the course of 18 months,” says Dan Ammann, GM’s president. “You can safely assume that the fourth generation won’t be the last.”
General Motors: A Car without Steering Wheels
General Motors Co. will run the self-driving cars in a test batch for a ride-sharing program starting in 2019. Currently, the Detroit-based automaker is applying for regulatory permission to run the test cars without a driver. It has filed a petition with the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration to test the robocars.
If NHTSA gives the approval, General Motors Co. will still require permission from states to run the cars without steering wheel. As of now, only seven states allow such technology to be tested without a safety driver.
Companies like Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo and startup Zoox Inc. have unveiled robocars with the so-called Level 4 autonomy. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, self-driving cars can drive without human intervention but only in specific geographic locations.
According to numerous reports, General Motors Co. wants to impress its investors. The automaker has been on a buying spree, acquired LIDAR startup Strobe and Cruise to help it become a “full-stack” autonomous car company. It plans to unveil at least 20 new electric cars by 2023. The plan is a part of a broader push to transition towards all-electric vehicles and away from gasoline-chugging cars.
Companies like Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Volvo have also announced plans to offer electrified versions of all of its cars by 2022.
A Broader Push towards Electrification
In 2017, General Motors Co. also announced a new concept vehicle, the SURUS, or Silent Utility Rover Universal Superstructure. Two electric motors will power the fuel cell-powered, four-wheel steer concept vehicle. Most of GM’s hydrogen-powered vehicles will most likely be ambulances or delivery trucks.
The auto industry is all about electrification. Although, the all-electric vehicles only represent a tiny fraction of the entire market.