GM-backed Cruise is “just days away” from regulatory approval to begin mass production of its fully autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel or pedals, the company’s CEO, Kyle Vogt, said at an investor conference Thursday.
Cruise first unveiled the Origin robotaxi in early 2020 as a vehicle built for the sole purpose of shuttling people around in a city autonomously. But since then, the company has been mired in a lengthy regulatory process before it can begin mass production.
The vehicle’s lack of traditional human controls means that Cruise needs an exemption from the federal government’s motor vehicle safety standards, which require vehicles to have a steering wheel and pedals. The Origin has neither.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) only grants 2,500 such exemptions a year. There is legislation to increase that number to 25,000, but it is currently stalled in the Senate.
The vehicle’s lack of traditional human controls means that Cruise needs an exemption from the federal government
But that process may be nearing an end. Vogt said that NHTSA is expected to make a decision soon on the company’s request, perhaps sometime later this month.
“The Origin does require a special approval because it doesn’t have a steering wheel,” Vogt said at a Goldman Sachs event. “So it’s really hard to be in compliance with all the safety regulations around steering wheels if you don’t have one.”
Cruise “asked for an exemption ... from this and that’s what we’re expecting any day, which would be an endorsement of our approach to safety for that that vehicle.”
A spokesperson for NHTSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.