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"Look, Ma, no hands!" GM Poised to Launch Level 4 AV Ride-Sharing in 2019

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by Aaron Mack in Uncategorized
January 18, 2018

General Motors (GM) announced this month its plans to launch an autonomous, all-electric ride-sharing service in select U.S. cities in 2019. Meanwhile, it unveiled the vehicle that is set to make it all happen—the Cruise AV.

Upon first glimpse into the cabin of the Cruise AV, you’ll immediately notice what sets it apart from other autonomous vehicles (AVs); namely, its complete lack of human driver controls, including a steering wheel or pedals. Whereas other AV producers have embraced a note of caution by engineering for intervention by a human driver should something go awry, GM is promoting a leap of faith in the safety and consumer readiness of its technology by putting complete, utter control into the hands of its robot driver.

Reading GM’s 2018 Self-Driving Safety Report, it’s evident that the company is ready to reassure the timid or skeptical that riding in a Cruise AV will be not just as safe as, but safer than riding in a human-driven automobile. Many of the public’s most commonly voiced fears are seemingly allayed as GM describes the rigorous testing, risk management strategies, system redundancies and safety features poured into its ride of the future. The general message is clear: trust us, and take the plunge.

Make no mistake, however. GM is not suggesting that its AVs are ready for purchase by the individual consumer, and henceforth, widespread public adoption. It’s simply going a little bit further than other companies have before.

While the Cruise AV is definitely a flashy display of full autonomy in all its “look ma, no hands” glory, it’s not like the Cruise will be available at your local dealership in the foreseeable future. In fact, the ride-sharing service will be limited, for the foreseeable future, to well-defined, geo-fenced routes in select cities, where roads have been neatly mapped in high definition and operating conditions (e.g., weather) are ideal. Whether rural and small urban areas will see the ride-sharing service is too early to tell, but suffice to say this debut represents a step forward, rather than a cosmic leap, in the path toward a fully driverless future.

That is … if anything happens at all. Currently, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards don’t allow for vehicles like the Cruise AV. For example, regulations state that cars are supposed to have a steering wheel. How archaic, right? To bring its ride-sharing service to the market, GM must first petition the Federal Government for an exemption, and that is exactly what it has done. The company also says it is working with other industry groups and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a complete regulatory overhaul to eliminate hurdles to the development and testing of AVs this year. Meanwhile, the House and Senate are furthering respective bills that will shape what manufacturers can and can’t do. Only time will tell.

Check out GM’s 2018 Self-Driving Safety Report here.

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