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GM Will Make an Autonomous Car Without Steering Wheel or Pedals By 2019 (theverge.com) 232

General Motors plans to mass-produce self-driving cars that lack traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019, the company announced today. From a report: It's a bold declaration for the future of driving from one of the country's Big Three automakers, and one that is sure to shake things up for the industry as the annual Detroit Auto Show kicks off next week. The car will be the fourth generation of its driverless, all-electric Chevy Bolts, which are currently being tested on public roads in San Francisco and Phoenix. And when they roll off the assembly line of GM's manufacturing plant in Orion, Michigan, they'll be deployed as ride-hailing vehicles in a number of cities. "It's a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls," GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge. "And it's an interesting thing to share with everybody."
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GM Will Make an Autonomous Car Without Steering Wheel or Pedals By 2019

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  • by npslider ( 4555045 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @03:28PM (#55916725)

    That's no steering wheel, it's a docking station!

    • (including end of 2019) I think they overestimate their chances!
      • Re:Within 2 years?! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by slew ( 2918 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @04:04PM (#55917021)

        (including end of 2019)
        I think they overestimate their chances!

        Don't underestimate Detroit's ability to produce a car without a steering wheel, they've done it before [historygarage.com]...

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 12, 2018 @04:10PM (#55917067)

        ARTICLE: "General Motors plans to mass-produce self-driving cars that lack traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019"
        ACTUAL ANNOUNCEMENT: "General Motors has plans to begin producing a self-driving car by 2019. There will be an option to order the model without pedals or steering wheels"
        ENGINEERING WRITE-UP: "By late 2019 GM will have a prototype of an autonomous, self-driving car ready for mass production. And yes, autonomous would mean it would not need a steering wheel or pedals although those would, of course, be included."
        WHAT THE ENGINEERS ACTUALLY SAID: "I think that by early 2020 we could have enough of the self driving prototypes produced and ready for testing."

        • by Mkkby ( 4973999 )
          Can't wait to see this in practice. Without manual controls, how do you adjust it's position in a parking space or garage? How would you go thru a typical drive up window? How would you maneuver around a barricade, accident or temporary police detour? How about going around and around a parking lot or underground garage?

          None of these things will be possible from GPS maps, nor radar images. Not in 2019 or 2030.
          • Can't wait to see this in practice. Without manual controls, how do you adjust it's position in a parking space or garage? How would you go thru a typical drive up window? How would you maneuver around a barricade, accident or temporary police detour? How about going around and around a parking lot or underground garage?

            At a guess, you select the appropriate view on the dasboard console and drag the rectangle that denotes the car to where you want it to go. A bit like the current systems that show you a rear view camera with the path of the car marked on it, but with the screen controlling the steering instead of vice versa. These cars will have radar or lidar and lots of cameras, as well as GPS.

    • I look at it this way, I cannot steer it? I cannot slow it down? It is a pretty death box. GM can use it.
  • by Nukenbar ( 215420 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @03:28PM (#55916733)

    Does anyone really think they will be taking a driverless taxi/uber anywhere before 2025?

    • Re:Driverless car (Score:5, Informative)

      by b0bby ( 201198 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @03:39PM (#55916831)

      Some people in Phoenix might be doing it in the next few months. Google/Waymo has the cars are seem to be almost ready to let users use them. GM is similarly planning to restrict the geographic areas for their trial, so I can see that it could happen.

    • A fully blown automated vehicle that's going cross on cross-country trips from arbitrary start and end points? Probably not.

      However, if you told me that some city had some kind of automated mini-cabs that could ferry people around certain parts of downtown or other restricted areas, I wouldn't be surprised in the least.
    • Welcome to Johnny Cab!

  • I welcome this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gameboyhippo ( 827141 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @03:28PM (#55916737) Journal

    Autoautomobiles will be a life changer for those with disabilities.

    • Re:I welcome this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by b0bby ( 201198 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @03:45PM (#55916881)

      One of my kids' friends has eyesight which precludes her from driving without some pretty major corrections. I half jokingly said she should just wait 5 years for self driving cars and she half jokingly replied that she was going to move to California to get one sooner. People with disabilities and the elderly are going to be helped a lot, but all of us will be helped by the lower chance of getting in an accident, lower insurance and health care costs, increased productivity, etc. I'm not sure if traffic will improve or get worse though.

      • by slew ( 2918 )

        ... I'm not sure if traffic will improve or get worse though.

        There is some indication [youtube.com] that even a small number of self-driving cars might improve traffic a bunch...

        • by b0bby ( 201198 )

          Yes, but I think you might see a lot more use which could offset the efficiencies, at least in the short term.

        • What if the autonomous cars drive side by side at the speed limit while all the human drivers are stuck behind them losing their minds?

          I'm lucky that I don't have to drive on a daily basis on congested expressways. It drives me crazy that people insist on tailgating, merge early across the blend line, or refuse to slow and leave a gap for the onramp traffic. They don't even seem to realize they're the ones creating the stop and go traffic. Everyone can drive a lot faster when people give the cars around

          • What if the autonomous cars get their own version of a Diamond Lane, where they can drive 180km/h bumper to bumper, unhindered by slow-ass meatbags?
    • Re:I welcome this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pascal Sartoretti ( 454385 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @04:38PM (#55917319)

      Autoautomobiles will be a life changer for those with disabilities.

      And for those who can't drive anymore (eldery people).

      And for those who can't drive yet (children under 18).

      And for those who fail the licence exam.

      And when you are drunk.

      Etc...

      When you add all these niches, you have a market.

      • When you add all these niches, you have a market.

        The limiting factor that will make this a niche market for a long time yet is not who would use them, but where they can be used, and when.

        "Within a city that still allows automobile traffic (or where automobile traffic is still reasonable) when the roads are not obscured by snow or other covering" is the niche.

      • And for those who can't drive anymore (eldery people).

        Ya, good luck with that. In my experience it's not finding them a way to get driven around but getting them to admit they can't drive and taking away their keys that is the real hurdle. As it is, when I ride with my dad, I just politely tell him when he is on the wrong side of the road despite his claims he is not.

  • by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @03:31PM (#55916761)

    And if anything goes wrong with the guidance system, don't worry -- it will simply slow down, pull over, and stop [theverge.com].

    And then...

    • ... Sit in big city rush hour traffic for hours?

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        ... Sit in big city rush hour traffic for hours?

        So what do you do today if your car has some sort of mechanical failure? Sensors and processing is for the most part passive units, they'll probably have quite high durability and uptime. With some redundancy and error correction they'll probably not be significantly worse off than human-driven cars. A bigger concern is that the sensors are fine, but the AI doesn't understand where to go. But I imagine there'll be some form of remote driving capability built in to resolve that, assuming you're in good rang

    • And if anything goes wrong with the guidance system, don't worry -- it will simply slow down, pull over, and stop [theverge.com].

      And then...

      Call AAA?

      • Right. My point is that if something in the guidance system fails (as well as a number of other marginal failure modes where the computer will force a more conservative call), you're dead in the water rather than just driving the car home and fixing it or getting it fixed at your convenience.

        • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @05:41PM (#55917881)

          As opposed to now, where if something in the guidance system fails the car generally goes out of control and there are multiple injuries. See "I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in my sleep while everyone else is screaming."

          Or just like any of a number of other major non-guidance systems failures on a current car, e.g. catastrophic radiator failure.

          • As opposed to now, where if something in the guidance system fails the car generally goes out of control and there are multiple injuries.

            You and I clearly have different things in mind by "guidance system." In today's cars, the human driver is the guidance system. That's being replaced by a CPU and a bunch of sensors/actuators/other components that can and will fail, at which point you're dead in the water for no good reason. You're making a lot more failures showstoppers rather than something you can limp through.

    • Better renew your AAA service.

    • ...hail yourself a new autonomous taxi to come pick you up and tell the owner of the first autonomous taxi to send a tow truck. I wouldn't be surprised if the car sends its own distress signal for service and a new car for the passenger automatically without any passenger input. Sounds like a better experience than your non-autonomous car. If you break down on the side of the road, you sit and wait for the tow truck.
    • So you'll be riding through a bad neighborhood at night, someone will throw something in front of the car to get it to stop and then carjack/rob/murder you when it pulls over?

      How about red lights and stop signs? Will it be able to run them if a threat is approaching the vehicle?

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        Perhaps the US is not a good place for autonomous cars. GM should find good markets in the rest of the world though.

    • Let the "Ads" begin, and never stop

  • Yeah, right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shogun37 ( 1835726 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @03:35PM (#55916795)
    What happens if the guidance system goes out? If the map the computer's using isn't fully up to date? If I need to move the car only a short distance, or park in a place without parking spaces? This is the same kind of thinking that removed guns from fighter aircraft because "dog fighting is obsolete." I haven't seen any self guiding car system that I would trust to act, with no ability to override. Build one that can handle New York or LA rush hour and I may change my mind.
    • Re:Yeah, right (Score:5, Informative)

      by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @03:54PM (#55916949)

      Answers:

      GPS doesn't go out.
      If any critical sensor fails, it's slow down and move to the side of the road.
      The launch will be in a limited geographical area, so they'll have ensured the map is completely up to date and keep it that way.
      It's a ride-hailing service (taxi) so micromanaging where it moves or parks is none of your business.

      • GPS doesn't go out.

        Let's hope the auto-makers aren't also making that assumption.

        • I'm willing to bet that if the entire GPS system (US GPS, EU Galileo, Russian GLONASS, and what ever the Chinese and Indian systems are) all go out we have bigger problems than just missing GPS. The systems all operate at similar frequencies, because they wanted to ensure that if someone tried to jam theirs it would also jam the attackers. So I would say if they all went down we either just experienced a massive CME and soon will have melted power lines and transformers, someone nuked them and the whole pla
          • by cstacy ( 534252 )

            I'm willing to bet that if the entire GPS system (US GPS, EU Galileo, Russian GLONASS, and what ever the Chinese and Indian systems are) all go out we have bigger problems than just missing GPS.

            In some areas of the country (such as here in Washington, D.C.) the GPS goes out periodically, on purpose, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is announced beforehand (if you know where to look --- the general public does not) and sometimes it is most definitely not announced. It's done by jamming.

        • The USA's "selective availability" was taken away years ago. And then there are several other systems by other world powers in place.
          LOTs of things rely on GPS. Created by engineers who's idea of GPS isn't stuck in the 1990s.

      • If any critical sensor fails, it's slow down and move to the side of the road. . . . It's a ride-hailing service (taxi)

        So I miss my appointment across town, the ride-hailing service pays for a tow/repair cycle, etc., if a bird craps on one of the cameras?

        And if the car is on a crowded city street with nowhere to pull over, what then? Does it simply stop in the middle of the street and jam things up for everyone? Or does it keep going with the supposed critical sensor failure? Things can get jacked up in a hurry when your automation can't make good judgment calls and there's no way for critical-thinking humans to interven

        • Sure. The Jacquard loom will never catch on either.

          • I can only hope the GM engineers taking a similarly cavalier and dismissive attitude toward the real-world problems this will create so we can get over this as quickly as possible and refocus our collective energies on advances that are actually useful rather than ego-stroking stuff like this that people are shoving down our throats for no good reason whatsoever.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      What happens if I'm going someplace without mapped roads? Like my cabin.

      • Then the rest of the world laughs are your edge use case and says "suck it up"
      • Re:Yeah, right (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Known Nutter ( 988758 ) on Friday January 12, 2018 @04:18PM (#55917149)

        What happens if I'm going someplace without mapped roads? Like my cabin.

        I'd like to take a Boeing 737 to my cabin. Guess what? That mode of transportation isn't available to my cabin. Maybe I'd like to go off-roading in a Corvette. There are probably better options.

        It seems that every time autonomous vehicles come up for discussion, every single possible use-case must be addressed. And when one oddly-specific use-case cannot be filled, the entire idea is garbage and without merit.

        It's pretty simple. You don't get to take your autonomous vehicle to your cabin in the woods. Not yet.

    • I haven't seen any self guiding car system that I would trust to act, with no ability to override. Build one that can handle New York or LA rush hour and I may change my mind.

      You could be sanest guy on the planet. Your reasoning could be correct. But, the market does not care whether you trust it or not. It does not care whether you change your mind or not.

      If enough people trust it, and if enough people buy it the market will satisfy the need.

  • I'm thinking of a certain era in Larry Niven's "Known Space" stories, where on Earth, disconnecting the autopilot and driving a car manually on public roads was an Organ-Bank offense.

  • Other than to *prove* it's not needed, at this juncture it seems an odd choice to remove capability.

    Particularly to make such a declaration given the reality that the legal framework of operating fully autonomous cars is far from a known thing.

    • Steering wheels are dangerous, costly, add weight and I am sure someone else can find a few more negatives. In short, there are a boat load of reasons to get rid of them and there was only 1 to keep it "need" and that is now gone.
      • I hope there will be 2 or 3 redundant motors doing steering and brakes, hooked up to 3 computers with code written separately calling the shots. That's the way fly-by-wire airliners work, and their separation distance from hard, immovable objects is a lot further than cars'.
      • Steering wheels are dangerous,

        Steering wheels are only dangerous when they break during an accident and the driver is impaled on one.

        Autonomous vehicles won't be in accidents, so steering wheels won't be dangerous anymore.

        As to the argument that they "add weight", oh my god. Don't stop at the drive through for dinner, you'll "add weight" to the vehicle.

  • For any tow / service people that have to try and move the things when they're broken.

  • Tesla isn't even this aggressive in their timeline.
  • It will have a port to plug in a Nintindo game controller, and all the cheat codes of GTA will be supported.
  • I couldn't even see the lines on the road myself. I really wonder how these autonomous cars are going to deal with snow storms without any way for the human to take over.

    • Stop worrying. AV proponents don't care. If you can't use your AV when it snows, well, you shouldn't have bought an AV or you should move to where it never snows. AV are da bomb and da future, man.
    • Try parking on grass outside a fairground. Or going through construction. Or navigating through a school pickup/drop off zone.

      Fully autonomous vehicles will absolutely NOT be ready by 2019 except in extremely controlled, specialized cases.

    • Heh! I'd have fun getting to work right now. Though the streets are mostly clear, the salt treatments have nearly obliterated the lines. Plus, they're working on the roads near my job and there's orange cones all over the place. Easy, but annoying for me. For the machine? I can't see it.

  • So, a garbage can blows into the road and the car just stops behind it...forever?
  • Florida has many areas with low to medium density and large populations of elderly people.
    If I lived there and could no longer drive I would get one of these in a flash.

  • If this is all there was, I'd ride a bike, ride a motorcycle full-time again, or WALK.
  • Still going to need a "Pull over and stop immediately" button just in case.

  • ...yep still won't buy anything GM makes.....ever.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN

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