GM Facing Battle in DC Over Self-Driving Vehicles

DETROIT, MICH.–General Motors Co. is facing resistance from federal regulators for permission to test some 5,000 driverless cars without steering wheels or brake pedals on public roads.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received comments of opposition from groups that represent insurers, car dealers and safety advocates that take issue with self-driving vehicles for a two-year period beginning this year that GM is seeking for its test phase.

GM’s petition is the first step in testing a driverless-taxi fleet of Chevrolet Bolt EV-based cars, known as the Cruise AV. GM’s petition seeks the maximum number of exemptions to allow cars to forgo human operators. 

Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy nonprofit, said GM’s petition failed to demonstrate its fully self-driving cars match the safety levels required for human-operated vehicles. “Despite a petition of 97 pages, and 78 footnotes, GM has provided no data that establishes…the absolute value of safety” of its vehicles, Levine said.

Jill Ingrassia, managing director of government relations and traffic safety advocacy for AAA, urged NHTSA to carefully consider the merits of GM’s proposal, noting that polls consistently show the driving public is skeptical about self-driving cars. “While there is much enthusiasm in the auto and technology industries to accelerate rapid development and deployment of automated vehicles, three-in-four Americans remain afraid of fully self-driving vehicles,” she said in comments submitted on May 20, referencing findings from AAA’s 2019 annual automated vehicles survey.

GM issued a statement of response to the opposition. “Safety is the cornerstone of our approach to the design, development and testing of our Zero Emission Autonomous Vehicles,” the company said in a statement. “We believe that automated technology has tremendous potential to reduce the human operator error that is a leading cause of more than 90% of vehicle crashes.

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