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New DOT Guidelines Benefit GM’s Cruise AV Initiative

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General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra

General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra

Earlier this year, GM announced its goal to start producing the self-driving Cruise AV. Now, the updated guidelines from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will bring the company one step closer to this objective.

Last week, the DOT released an 80-page update titled “Automated Vehicles 3.0.” One of the new provisions allows vehicles designed for Level 4 autonomous driving to drive on public roads, under certain conditions. The organization’s revamped guidelines elaborate on its commitment to “seek[ing] rules that are as non-prescriptive and performance-based as possible,” as the report articulated.

But what exactly does Level 4 technology mean for human drivers? The NHTSA adheres to the Society of Automotive Engineers’ definition of autonomous driving levels. Level 4, or high automation, is defined as a vehicle that “is capable of performing all driving functions under certain conditions.” Level 4 vehicles typically have no steering wheel, mirrors, or pedals. This means that it can perform all driving tasks and monitor the vehicle’s environment. This level is still one step below Level 5 (full automation without a human driver), however. A Level 4 vehicle does require that a human driver is on board, to ensure that the vehicle operates safely.

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GM is one of the key manufacturers that is aggressively fine-tuning self-driving vehicles equipped with Level 4 technology. Though the company’s self-driving branch, GM Cruise, is relatively new to the automated field, it has the mass-production means and manufacturing workforce to reach its goal quickly. Industry leads are starting to recognize GM’s potential for self-driving technology. Honda recently announced that it will invest $750 million in GM Cruise. It will also fund joint research over the next 12 years, which will cost the company another $2 billion.

GM is poised to deploy its fleet of Cruise AVs in 2019, as rideshare vehicles. We anticipate more news in the days ahead as the automaker takes advantage of the new DOT guidelines to tweak its Level 4 automated technology.

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News Sources: IEEE SpectrumAutoblog