GM may test car with no steering wheel, brake or gas pedal in NC

GM Cruise (CBS News)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/CBS) — We’ve all heard about attempts to build self-driving cars and some of those cars are going to be tested in North Carolina.

Now, General Motors is entering the market with a self-driving car it calls Cruise. It will have no steering wheel, brake or gas pedal.

Although GM is embracing the concept, there are indications that a lot of drivers may not be ready to give up those controls because they still want to have some kind of emergency control in a self-driving car.

GM has created a self-driving safety report explaining the benefits of its smart car and detailing the safety features that would be built into the vehicle.

The Cruise’s lack of controls is a radical shift in auto technology that some experts say bring home the stark reality of the future vehicles.

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“When you start taking away fundamental controls like the gas pedal, the brakes and the steering wheel, it does really make the prospect of autonomous driving all the more real,” says Motor Trends Ed Loh.

GM wants to get the Cruise on the road by 2019. To do that, it’s filing a petition with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, asking the government to waive federal standards pertaining to human driven automobiles.

But, Americans may not be quite ready to let go of the wheel. A poll by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety looked into the matter extensively.

Among its findings:

• 64 percent those surveyed expressed concern about sharing the roads with driverless cars
• 75 percent are not comfortable with disabling vehicle equipment like the steering wheel

“They have had it the entire history of the car. So taking away such an essential component of a car is a seismic shift,’’ says Advocates for Highway and Auto president Cathy Chase.

General Motors says if it gets government approval for its Cruise, it can start testing the no steering wheel cars in at least seven states.

It also plans to work with other states to get waivers from existing laws, for example, laws that require a hand on the steering wheel or an airbag in the steering wheel.

Charlotte has asked GM if it will test the Cruise there.

The Department of Transportation has named the Triangle Expressway as one of its “proving grounds” for autonomous vehicles.

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