General Motors and Ford Motor Co. want to deploy a small number of self-driving cars without human controls like steering wheels or brake pedals and have petitioned U.S. auto safety regulators for exemptions.
Their individual petitions were released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Wednesday and made available for 30 days of public response. Notably, neither company intends to sell the vehicles at this point.
Automakers are allowed to deploy up to 2,500 vehicles a year for delivery and riding-sharing services under federal law, but they must ask NHTSA to do so.
According to Reuters, NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff said the agency “will carefully examine each petition to ensure safety is prioritized and to include considerations of access for people with disabilities, equity and the environment.”
GM’s vehicle for a new age
GM’s vehicle, the Cruise Origin, was developed by Cruise, a majority-owned subsidiary of General Motors. It’s the automaker’s first vehicle designed to operate without a driver. The large bread loaf-shaped Origin lacks a steering wheel, pedals, manual turn signals, mirrors or any controls that would allow humans to operate it – even in an emergency.
The Origin’s doors open from the center, like those on a subway train. Among its amenities are wireless internet and device charging. The company said the autonomous vehicle will not move unless all passengers buckle their seat belts.
GM is anxious to develop autonomous technology to the point where the vehicle is responsible for the driving.
“We believe as early as mid-decade we’ll have personal autonomous vehicles available that will cross that line where the vehicle is now responsible for the operation,” said GM CEO Mary Barra earlier this year.
Ford looks to compete
Similarly, Ford is deploying a competing driverless autonomous vehicle for deliveries and ride-sharing. The automaker joined with Volkswagen Group in backing Argo AI, with a test fleet comprising of the Ford Escape Hybrid and the VW ID.Buzz.
Argo AI is undergoing driverless vehicle testing in eight cities worldwide, including Austin, Texas; Miami; Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh; Detroit; Palo Alto, California as well as Munich and Hamburg, Germany.
“We set out to tackle the hardest miles to drive — in multiple cities — because that’s where the density of customer demand is, and where our autonomy platform is developing the intelligence required to scale it into a sustainable business,” said Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky at the time.
Under development for five years, the Argo Autonomy Platform is designed to integrate into a variety of vehicles. Argo AI is also collaborating with Lyft’s ridesharing network, as well as Walmart.