GM to Test Fully Self-Driving Cars in NYC

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General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and its Cruise Automation subsidiary have applied to the state of New York to begin sustained testing of fully autonomous (self-driving) vehicles in the state beginning early next year. GM and Cruise are applying to begin testing in New York City, according to an announcement Tuesday morning from the governor’s office.

Cruise is applying to test a Level 4 autonomous vehicle for the first time in New York City. A Level 4 autonomous vehicle is essentially capable of performing all driving tasks even if a human driver fails to respond to a request to intervene.

The testing will be conducted in a controlled (“geofenced”) area of the city and will include an engineer in the driver’s seat to monitor and evaluate the vehicle’s performance and a second person in the passenger seat.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said:

Autonomous vehicles have the potential to save time and save lives, and we are proud to be working with GM and Cruise on the future of this exciting new technology. The spirit of innovation is what defines New York, and we are positioned on the forefront of this emerging industry that has the potential to be the next great technological advance that moves our economy and moves us forward.

As part of the agreement to test its technology in New York, Cruise will begin building a team of employees in New York City. Kyle Vogt, Cruise’s CEO, said:

Testing in New York will accelerate the timeline to deploying self-driving cars at scale. New York City is one of the most densely populated places in the world and provides new opportunities to expose our software to unusual situations, which means we can improve our software at a much faster rate.

Most autonomous vehicles being tested now are rated a Levels 2 and 3, both of which require a driver to intervene if necessary. By Level 5, the highest degree of autonomous driving, vehicles would not have pedals, mirrors, or a steering wheel. Theoretically.