General Motors may have delayed the launch of its robo-taxi service under its Cruise subsidiary, but the automaker remains confident that it will still be able to roll the service out sometime in the near future.
Additionally, GM still wants to launch the service without a safety driver behind the wheel and remains confident in the idea of AVs that lack a steering wheel and brake and accelerator pedals.
Speaking to reporters following its Q2 2019 earnings call, GM CEO Mary Barra said it won’t put prototypes on the street without safety drivers until they are ready. But unlike its competitor Waymo, which is currently running a beta robo-taxi program with safety drivers behind the wheel, GM wants Cruise robo-taxis to be driverless from the get-go.
“Our deployment will be when we can have the vehicle operating safely without a safety trainer,” Barra said.
GM recently pushed back the debut of the Cruise robo-taxi service in San Francisco indefinitely. It had previously said it would put a fleet of self-driving vehicles on the city’s streets for ride-sharing purposes before the end of 2019. Many already had their doubts the company would meet its lofty timeline for the service’s rollout, with a report emerging late last year that alleged Cruise was behind schedule.
If Cruise can launch without a safety driver as it plans, it sees no reason why its AVs should have traditional vehicle controls. For that reason, it remains confident that AVs should not have a steering wheel or pedals, despite rivals designing AVs with stowable controls that offer the best of both worlds. The automaker filed a safety waiver with NHTSA last year that would allow them to put the steering wheel and pedal-less vehicles on public roads and a decision on the petition is expected to be made soon.
“I wouldn’t say there are impediments there,” Barra said. “There is just still work to be done. I think NHTSA understands the importance of this technology from a safety perspective. I think there is a line of sight to get the regulatory approval.”
Barra also downplayed the fact that it missed the 2019 deadline, saying that “anytime you are working on something that never has been done before, brand-new technology, a timeline is likely to move around a little bit,” before adding that the company still has a “line of sight,” for its eventual launch.