Last January, General Motors sent out a press release proudly proclaiming that it had filed a petition with the Department of Transportation asking for permission to “safely deploy a self-driving vehicle in 2019,” without a steering wheel or pedals.
The announcement certainly garnered the automaker the attention it was looking for, especially from the tech community, but it now seems as though GM jumped the gun. The federal government has not yet granted GM the exemption it needs to launch the cars and the automaker has received significant pushback from safety groups over the matter.
Doug Parks, GM’s vice president of autonomous and electric vehicle programs, told Automotive News this week that it will no longer ahead with the plan to roll out a self-driving car that lacks standard controls.
“Until we have exemptions, which we filed a petition for, and/or law changes, we probably wouldn’t go forward with Gen 4,” Parks said. “But we think it’s really something we’ve got to talk about, we’ve got to work on.”
Considering the infancy of autonomous vehicle technology, the backlash is rightly placed. If AVs are intended to be safer than regular vehicles, it seems counterintuitive to take away a crucial safety component like backup manual controls for the sake of impressing the public.
While GM never said its self-driving taxi fleet would exclusively feature vehicles without controls, it made it clear it wanted to launch the vehicles in some capacity this year. It also said the fourth-generation Cruise AV would be “the first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals or manual controls.”
GM is believed to be behind schedule on its self-driving taxi project as per its own timeline. It previously indicated it would launch the service in 2019, but CEO Mary Barra side stepped questions related to the rollout this week. Parks would also not reaffirm the automaker’s commitment to the 2019 launch, AN says, and wouldn’t say if the service would launch with safety derivers.
Whenever the Cruise Automation-operated taxi fleet is ready to launch, it will likely be with GM’s Gen 3 AV, Parks said, which is already testing on public roads and features standard controls.