The argument about whether autonomous cars are on the cusp of hitting our roads or not forges on. The optimistic technologists claim that change is right around the corner, while the pessimistic realists claim it’s still a long ways away. And though many driver aid systems, like Tesla’s autopilot and Cadillac’s Super Cruise , make a compelling case for the former, the latter party seems to be winning the battle given that no company has come out with a fully functional autonomous system that needs no driver intervention…yet.
It struck us as odd, then, that GM issued a statement last January that claimed it was going to seek approval from the US government to “safely deploy a self-driving vehicle in 2019,” one that relied exclusively on computers to drive itself and was intended for public use. The autonomous tech was supposedly so good, in fact, that GM even claimed that it wasn’t going to install a steering wheel, throttle and brake pedals, or gear selector in the cars. Press images of a Chevrolet Bolt wearing the name of GM’s Cruise autonomous car division hit the web to back the claim up, depicting the Bolt with a barren dashboard that was inhabited by only a screen, HVAC controls, and trim pieces.
The only problem with that idea, however, is that the government wasn’t really on board with it. That’s why GM’s vice president of autonomous and electric vehicle programs told Automotive News that the automaker is going to stick to convention and keep building its cars, autonomous or not, with steering wheels and an honest-to-god brake pedal.
“Until we have exemptions, which we filed a petition for, and/or law changes, we probably wouldn’t go forward with Gen 4,” Parks said. “But we think it’s really something we’ve got to talk about, we’ve got to work on.”
The important thing to note is that Parks only said that GM “probably” wouldn’t remove the autonomous Bolt’s manual controls, meaning that if GM gets the approval it needs, then the steering wheel and pedal armageddon could commence. While GM previously advertised that its fleet of autonomous taxis would be ready to launch sometime this year, Parks, as well as CEO Marry Barra, seem to be avoiding giving us a concrete date.