GM just introduced a self-driving vehicle without a steering wheel

Meet the Cruise AV, GM's First Production-Ready Driverless Car

The company is seeking the US government approval for a fully autonomous vehicle - one without a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator pedal - to enter the automaker's first commercial ride-sharing fleet in 2019. Waymo announced in November that it was removing test drivers from the front seat.

As GM made the announcement on Friday, shares in the company rose as high as 1.1 percent at 9:36am in NY, coming in at $44.68, GM's highest intraday trading level since November 29, Bloomberg Technology reports.

GM has announced plans to test the cars in Arizona, California and MI. In other states, the automaker would have to work with local officials to change the rules. Cruise Automation is developing the software for GM's self-driving cars.

"If you're testing Level 4 technology with a driver, you're not really testing it at level 4", he said in an interview at the CES technology show in Las Vegas this week. Earlier in the fall, the federal government had requested more safety details from the self-driving auto industry.

The self-driving Chevrolet Bolt - already being tested on busy streets in San Francisco and Phoenix with a human engineer in the vehicle - relies on cameras, radar, and high-precision laser sensors known as lidar for navigation. Analysts said the announcement was significant because until now trials have either converted ordinary cars or used ungainly prototypes never intended for production.

GM's autonomous test cars were in 22 accidents in California past year, according to data from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.

Of course GM is not the only company working on these technologies but it's made the first move and we'll have to wait and see if it pays off. The application to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration seeks to exempt GM from a number of federal standards that can not be met with a driverless vehicle.

On Thursday GM submitted a petition to the NHTSA detailing the safety features of the "Cruise AV" vehicle.

CNBC reported that the automaker is looking to put up to 2,500 of the vehicles on public roads as part of the pilot.

If NHTSA approves the petition, GM will still have to get permission from states to run the steering wheel-free cars.

As The Washington Post reported last month, the ambitious timeline GM has set for getting the Cruise AV on the road could place the automaker in an enviable position - the unique ability to provide existing ride-hailing companies such as Lyft or Uber with a growing fleet of autonomous vehicles or, better yet, to unleash GM's own service.

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