General Motors recently raised the bar for autonomous vehicles, when it unveiled plans to test the new Chevy Bolt. The new fully autonomous version of the Chevy Bolt, called the Cruise AV, will be a Level 4 self-driving vehicle. As the first vehicle to operate without a driver, steering wheel or other controls, it will be tested by 2019.
Cruise AV will be different from the current self-driving Chevy Bolts being tested in California. The new model will have no controls or buttons, and will treat the user as a passenger, regardless of the seating position.
In order to test the Cruise AV, GM will need a reform of the existing road safety regulations. The company has already filed a petition to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hoping to amend the safety rules and regulations in place.
The speciality of the Safety Petition is related to the unique design of the Cruise AV, as the new model is a completely revamped version of the previous Chevy Bolts. The petition explicitly tackles the “first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals or manual controls”.
Even though GM will require an exemption, President Dan Ammann explained that the company will be striving to meet the standard in a different way.
“What we can do is put the equivalent of the passenger side airbag on that side as well. So it’s to meet the standards but meet them in a way that’s different than what’s exactly prescribed, and that’s what the petition seeks to get approval for.”
The Safety Petition, containing 16 changes to existing traffic safety rules, was filed to the U.S. NHTSA on January 11. Although seven states already allow the changes needed to test the Cruise AV, GM will send similar petitions to other local transportation authorities. The company will also have to negotiate with states that require a licensed human driver behind the steering wheel.
GM Cruise V has already received approval from the state of New York, as well as a public demonstration in November 2017.
Future tests of autonomous driving on U.S. roads are dependent on Senate’s approval of the SELF DRIVE act, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives. In addition, an ongoing debate regarding autonomous testing revolves around the relative ease by which autonomous vehicles are tested, and the strict safety testing standards that could potentially prolong the entire process. As autonomous driving has been gaining prominence in the U.S., manufacturers have been increasingly busy testing their self-driving technologies.
The success of the autonomous testing in 2019, pending on the Safety Petition, will determine the future of mass production and accompanying ride-sharing app for GM’s self-driving fleet.