GM and Honda reveal self-driving vehicle with no steering wheel

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GM and Honda have announced a partnership that is creating shockwaves throughout the auto industry. The longstanding competitors are working together on a new self-driving electric vehicle, the Origin. 

The Origin is unique for several reasons. The car has no steering wheel, no pedals for braking or accelerating, no windshield wipers, and no rearview mirror. It also has sliding doors through which two people can enter and exit simultaneously. Looking at the Origin, there is no clear “front” or “back” to the vehicle.

Unfortunately for consumers, the six-seater isn’t available for purchase. The car is intended primarily for ridesharing purposes. Consumers will be able to book an Origin through the Cruise app, a product of GM’s self-driving subsidiary.

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How the Origin Will Work

As with Uber or Lyft, riders would enter their destination into Cruise. The Origin would show up with no driver and only an external keypad, which riders would use to enter a unique code to gain entry. Passengers will officially begin and end their journeys by pushing buttons inside the vehicle.

GM and Honda’s new brainchild uses sensors to detect when passengers are inside. By removing traditional car features, the Origin can fit more people comfortably. It’s also designed for 18 hours of urban and highway driving per day. 

GM leadership believes the Origin is a revolutionary solution for mobility that will have positive environmental and commuting impacts. The new vehicle will hopefully reduce congestion in cities, as well as improve road safety. GM’s bold slogan applies directly to the Origin – “zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion.”

Mega Three-way Partnership

Within the partnership, GM is responsible for manufacturing the car, while Honda will lead the design efforts. Cruise will focus on the self-driving software and sensors. Together, the three companies are working to align private passenger incentives with what is best for society.

Cruise CEO, Dan Ammann, anticipates one key point of pushback the public is likely to give. “We know that the bus is better for our environment, but on a Friday in rush hour, saving the planet doesn’t seem worth missing dinner or bedtime with the kids,” he says. “What’s right for you is now the same thing as what’s right for the world.

Currently, there are no timelines for production or launch. Kyle Vogt, CTO of Cruise, is hopeful that the three companies can bring their collective vision to life “pretty soon.” However, some are skeptical given Cruise’s history of delays. 

Self-Driving Harder than Anticipated

Despite how much excitement there has been recently in the auto sector, few have been able to follow through. Successfully launching a capable and safe autonomous vehicle is incredibly challenging. Companies not only need next-gen tech capabilities but also have to work closely with regulators to ensure all risks and legal issues are addressed. 

For example, Cruise must obtain an exemption from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the Origin because it doesn’t have typical motor vehicle features. GM was hoping to mass-produce autonomous vehicles by the end of last year and test self-driving vehicles in Manhattan. Neither of those goals has come to fruition.

Companies like Uber, Waymo, and Hyundai have all had similar setbacks. However, no one appears to be backing down. Self-driving vehicles are the way of the future. The question is not if, but when.

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