General Motors is poised to release a production-ready autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel and pedals in 2019. The car, to be named the Cruise AV, is a Chevrolet Bolt EV–based self-driving car that relies on technology developed by the Detroit-based automaker and Cruise Automation, a self-driving startup that GM acquired nearly two years ago.
With a goal of eliminating crashes and traffic congestion, the Cruise AV is fitted with five lidar sensors, 16 cameras, and 21 radars. The information procured from the systems allows the Cruise AV to create a three-dimensional model of its surroundings. Additionally, the array of radars, cameras, and sensors let the self-driving car anticipate the movements of surrounding objects and predict multiple driving paths, which allows the Cruise AV to change course quickly should an object cross the Cruise AV’s intended path.
Thanks to machine learning and a shared database, each individual Cruise AV will be able to share the knowledge it gains on the road with the rest of the Cruise AV fleet. As such, GM’s autonomous hatchback can accrue new insights as the group of self-driving hatchbacks rack up additional miles. GM fits the Cruise AV with a host of redundant systems as a means of ensuring passenger safety. Should any sensor, electrical component, or drive system fail, a second unit is prepared to take over at a moment’s notice. On the off chance that both units fail, the Cruise AV can pull off the road and bring itself to a stop.
In order to allow public use of the Cruise AV, General Motors has filed a petition with the Department of Transportation asking the government to let its autonomous electric vehicle operate on public roads without the aid of a driver or traditional driving controls. Should the petition be granted, General Motors anticipates customers will interact with the Cruise AV in much the same way they operate with today’s ride-hailing services.
Users will request a Cruise AV by way of a mobile application, which will also allow them to customize the vehicle’s climate and radio settings to their liking. Inside the Cruise AV, GM fits a number of touchscreen tablets that are capable of displaying a variety of ride-related information to passengers. The automaker also includes a button to end the ride early.
The Cruise AV’s automated systems are reliant on data provided by detailed high-definition maps, and the vehicles will be geofenced to routes that have been appropriately mapped. Although GM didn’t reveal the scope and scale of its map data, it’s likely the initial batch of Cruise AVs will be limited to the San Francisco and Phoenix areas—the two cities where GM has tested the vehicle.
Safe Me San Francisco
Like the Bolt EV on which it’s based, the Cruise AV is produced at GM’s plant in Orion Township, Michigan. To maintain passenger safety in the event of a collision, GM has crash-tested the car to make sure the self-driving hardware didn’t physically increase the risk of harm to occupants. Meanwhile, the left front seat was engineered to meet the same safety criteria applied to the right front passenger seat.
On top of this, the Cruise AV employs a number of cybersecurity protections to prevent malware from making its way into the vehicle’s various operating systems, with the intent to limit the potential for a Cruise AV to be hacked to perform in any way contrary to its intended programming.
Look for GM to start an initial, limited rollout of the Cruise AV before the end of the decade—once the DOT grants GM’s petition—with more of the self-driving hatchbacks expected to reach the roads as additional geographic areas are mapped. Don’t plan on purchasing your own Cruise AV anytime soon, though, as the self-driving car is expected to remain a ride-hailing option for the time being.