GM sees the announcement Friday as a significant step toward the widespread adoption of self-driving vehicle technology. The vehicles will travel on a fixed route controlled by their mapping system, and the Detroit-based automaker is applying for federal permission to run the test cars without a driver.
GM said that it has filed a safety petition with the Department of Transportation for the vehicle, which the company claims is now "production-ready". A Waymo spokesman said in November that the company has tested its cars in 20 different cities.
The Cruise Automation team is now testing its self-driving Chevy Bolt - with a human backup - in Detroit, Phoenix and San Francisco. But before it can use the new vehicles, GM will need special approval from the federal government.
For instance, the current (and voluminous) Federal Motor-Vehicle Safety Standards document assumes a steering wheel that contains an airbag for the driver. Testing within GM's own properties, and later on public roads in MI, has been underway since 2016.
The company declined to identify the first states in which it plans to launch the vehicle or say when it would begin testing.
Late past year, Waymo started an autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix using a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan.
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The first market-ready self-driving auto is poised to come from General Motors Co., which submitted its federal safety proposal Thursday to put a robotic vehicle with no steering wheel or gas pedal on public roads in 2019. This means we'll likely see it initially deployed in only a few select areas where GM has been testing its self-driving cars, such as in San Francisco and parts of MI.
What is the driver's seat in the Bolt EV will become the front left passenger seat in the Cruise AV, GM said.
GM is part of a growing throng of vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and tech startups seeking to develop so-called robo-taxis over the next three years in North America, Europe and Asia.
Only seven states now allow cars without drivers (though in practice there are virtually none, because the technology is still being perfected).
The automaker would then need to obtain similar approval from individual US states. The petition also requests for the permission to have 16 security requirements in a unique way, says Paul Hemmersbaugh, a Public Policy Director and Chief Counsel at General Motors.