As Steering Wheels and Pedals Are Disappearing, One Famous Automaker Will (Always) Keep Them

Once upon a time, it might have seemed absurd to imagine cars that did not have a steering wheel nor pedal to control them. Even the Jetsons’ flying car had a funny sort of joystick.

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But the reality of the automotive world seems to be stranger than fiction, as cars without controls are being developed, tested and coming closer to production. And not just by ’boutique’, wanna-be carmakers, but by some of the biggest names in the automotive and tech industries.

Back in January, General Motors revealed the Cruise AV, an autonomous vehicle that it was developing for its foray into the ride-sharing industry. The “first production-ready vehicle designed from the start without a steering wheel, pedals or other unnecessary manual control” would make up a fully autonomous ride-sharing fleet that is slated for launch in 2019.

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Read more about it: No Steering Wheel, No Pedals! What Car Is This?!


We’re not sure, though, whether GM would be able to figure its way around all the legislative speed bumps in time: there is the small one that requires, specifically, a steering wheel airbag (there’s no steering wheel to put the airbag in, geddit?); and there is the bigger one of requiring a human to be in the test car to take control, in the event of an imminent accident that the car fails to avoid by itself.

In places like California—where GM, Apple and Waymo are testing their autonomous cars—and Beijing—where Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent and Mercedes-Benz are testing theirs—the ability for human intervention is still required by law. And that means the need for control mechanisms with which to control the car, ie. steering wheel and pedals.

Waymo’s pod car, which has no controls inside, was retired last year, in favour of a more conventional car. 

As the automotive world is figuring all this out, there is one auto company that will always include these long-time features in its cars. In an interview with Motor Authority, CEO of Porsche Cars North America, Klaus Zellmer, said that even as autonomous tech advances and becomes good enough to manoeuvre the car all by itself, his company’s products will always have a steering wheel, pedals and even manual transmission. According to Zellmer, these features are needs to “really engage with the car and to do it all yourself.”

He added: “…our customers always want it all. They want the possibility to use autonomous drive mode but they want to really engage with the car as well.”

Well, Porsches were never intended as mere transportation, anyway. Just like Ferrari said it would never sully its product line with an SUV….oh wait: Ferrari confirms its first SUV. 

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