General Motor’s subsidiary Cruise is now seeking federal approval to commercially deploy an autonomous vehicle designed without equipment to support human drivers, such as a steering wheel, pedals, rearview mirrors and windshield wipers, the company announced Feb. 18.
Cruise has filed a petition seeking approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to build and put the Cruise Origin into commercial service. This all-electric autonomous vehicle (AV), developed specifically for ride-sharing, “has been purposefully designed from the ground up to operate without a human driver,” Rob Grant, senior vice president of government affairs and social impact at Cruise, said in a blog post. “This means it does not rely on certain human-centered features, like a steering wheel or a sun visor, to operate safely.”
Cruise, GM and Honda are jointly developing the Origin. Cruise noted the Origin could last for more than a million miles, six times longer than the average car, thanks to GM’s Ultium batteries.
“In the spirit of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s six guiding principles for work on innovation in transportation, the Origin is in service of something greater — driving environmental sustainability, ensuring U.S. leadership in developing and manufacturing autonomous technology and artificial intelligence, supporting the American workforce, and promoting accessibility,” Grant said in the blog post.
Other innovations seen in the Origin include doors that don’t hinge outward, but slide open, so bicyclists are safer, and seats that all face each other, to support interactions between passengers.
“The Origin will help expand mobility options for seniors, people who are blind or have low vision, and other communities that have traditionally faced barriers in access to reliable transportation,” Grant said in the blog post. “And the Origin will be manufactured at GM’s Michigan Factory ZERO, supporting and creating American jobs, promoting economic growth, and advancing the long-term success of the U.S. manufacturing sector and America’s automotive industry.”
All in all, this new petition “both demonstrates how the Origin achieves safety objectives of existing standards, and helps enable future AV regulations,” Grant said in the blog post. “NHTSA has made clear in public testimony and regulatory actions, that in order to consider the development of AV standards, they first need more information from real world AV operations. We believe this petition can help enable that outcome — learnings from the Origin, which is designed to improve overall road safety, can help inform the creation of new, updated regulations and standards.”
Founded in 2013, San Francisco-based Cruise was acquired by General Motors in 2016. Cruise is currently authorized to use a fleet of light-duty autonomous vehicles for commercial services on surface streets within designated parts of San Francisco.