General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra held a meeting with two US senators on Thursday. The meeting comes amidst the automaker’s efforts to push for the rollout of legislation that could help accelerate the introduction of self-driving vehicles on American roads.
The meeting was attended by Barra, Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, and Senator Gary Peters, both of whom are Democrats. Peters, who represents Michigan, noted that it is pertinent to support American carmakers so that they can compete with countries such as China. He also noted that the GM CEO discussed the “future of mobility — including autonomous vehicles.”
“We must act to ensure US manufacturers can compete with countries like China, create jobs here, and improve roadway safety,” Peters said.
General Motors’ autonomous driving technology unit, Cruise, has been allowed to provide robotaxi services in San Francisco without human drivers. And on February 2022, Cruise revealed that it had submitted a petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) so it could get permission to deploy 2,500 autonomous cars per year. These vehicles would have no steering wheels, mirrors, turn signals, or windshield wipers.
The vehicle referenced by Cruise in its petition appears to be the Origin, which is a notable step up from the converted Chevy Bolt EVs that the company currently uses. The Origin is a purpose-built robotaxi with subway-like doors and no steering wheel. As noted in a Reuters report, the NHSTA opened GM’s petition for public comment last year, but the agency is yet to act on it.
GM has been pretty vocal about the need for the United States to back self-driving efforts. In 2021, Cruise encouraged US President Joe Biden to support legislation for self-driving vehicles. The company also highlighted that the country is at risk of falling behind against rivals like China. That being said, GM has also faced some scrutiny for its work with Cruise.
In December, the NHTSA initiated a safety probe into Cruise after two rear-end crashes involving Cruise robotaxis led to injuries. The regulatory body received reports stating that the self-driving Cruise vehicles “may engage in inappropriately hard braking or become immobilized.” Cruise has noted that it was cooperating with the NHTSA’s investigation.