General Motors unveiled an autonomous prototype without a steering wheel last year, and had plans to begin testing the vehicle this year.
As part of the effort, the company applied for an exemption to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. However, that process has taken longer than expected and the company’s petition has received pushback from a number of groups including AAA and The Center for Auto Safety.
The process is still ongoing, but it appears GM won’t move ahead with its original plan. As noticed by Automotive News, GM’s vice president of autonomous and electric vehicle programs used the 2019 RBC Capital Markets Future of Mobility Conference to reveal “Until we have exemptions, which we filed a petition for, and / or law changes, we probably wouldn’t go forward with Gen 4 [vehicles].”
Doug Parks went on to say Gen 3 and Gen 4 vehicles are virtually identical, except the former have manual controls that can be operated by a safety driver. As a result, it now appears GM’s autonomous driving service will be launched with more conventional Gen 3 vehicles.
The news comes at an interesting time as The Information reports a demonstration of Cruise Automation’s autonomous driving technology went horribly wrong. According to the publication, Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo was taking a ride in an autonomous prototype when the “car’s software suddenly turned itself off even as the car kept moving.” A safety driver was forced to take control of the vehicle and bring it a halt. Multiple attempts to reboot the system reportedly failed, so a second vehicle was sent to get Hachigo so he could finish the demo.
The failure had to be embarrassing as Honda and GM announced a partnership in 2018 to push for the “large-scale deployment of autonomous vehicle technology.” As part of this effort, the companies will work together to develop a purpose-built autonomous vehicle for Cruise Automation. On top of this, Honda also made an equity investment in Cruise and promised to give the company approximately $2 (£1.5 / €1.7) billion over the course of the next 12 years.