GM and Cruise reveal their fourth-generation, steering wheel-free Cruise AV

General Motors

That's because the latest incarnation has no steering wheel, or accelerator or brake pedal, swapping out those manual controls for interior screens, CNN reports.

GM's Cruise Automation unit has announced plans to carry passengers in self-driving cars that won't have a backup driver in 2019.

GM is part of a growing throng of vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and tech startups seeking to develop so-called robo-taxis over the next three years in North America, Europe and Asia.

Waymo, which used to be the autonomous auto arm of Alphabet Inc.'s Google, has made a limited number of autonomous vehicles without steering wheels and pedals. This comes as little surprise given the company has been utilizing specialized Bolt EV's for autonomous testing for some time now.

The automaker on Friday revealed images of an autonomous vehicle it's hoping to put into production by 2019 and is petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for permission to do so.

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The automaker would then need to obtain similar approval from individual USA states.

If the federal safety highway agency approves GM's petition, the automaker could build up to 2,500 of these vehicles per year, though the automaker has not committed to a firm production plan. GM executives said seven US states already allow the alterations sought by the automaker.

GM sees the announcement Friday as a significant step toward the widespread adoption of self-driving vehicle technology. That compares with the $30,000 on average that GM collects today for one of its vehicles, mostly derived from the initial sale.

At a November 30 briefing in San Francisco, GM's Ammann told investors the lifetime revenue generation of one of its self-driving cars could eventually be "several hundred thousands of dollars". The Cruise AV is GM's fourth-generation of self-driving software and has 21 radars, 16 cameras, and sensing devices that use lasers to detect objects.

Based on the Chevy Bolt, the electric Cruise AV will initially be employed in a ride-hailing capacity and operate within a pre-determined, well-mapped "geo-fenced" area, so it won't be entirely off the leash.

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