GM Patents a Way to Make Just About Any Vehicle Autonomous

Autonomous cars are great and all, but they’re so limited. What if you want an autonomous Malibu? Or an autonomous Traverse? Or, better yet, an autonomous Silverado? Well, GM may soon be able to do that.

GM has patented a “system for retrofitting vehicle automation.”

The patent outlines how motors in the steering column and both pedals (they’ve yet to master the world of autonomous manuals) plus a suite of sensors could turn just about anything into an autonomous car.

Admittedly, there are some limits. The patent’s language makes it clear that GM would prefer it if the vehicle were drive-by-wire, but what’s really essential are throttle, brake, and steering sensors in the vehicle—so I’ll have to keep driving my square-body myself.

In concert with the system’s own computers, the autonomous retrofitting tech can tell what’s going on based on how the car’s throttle position sensors (and all the other sensors) react to its own sensors’ positions. Along with the radar data, the car can paint a picture of what’s going on.

Just how GM will apply this technology remains to be seen. If they decide to make autonomy a dealer install option or they decide to make this available to fleets (or whatever else could be done) is unclear.

What is clear, though, is that this doesn’t require the system to be applied to an electric vehicle, like the Bolt-based Cruise AV. GM specifically mentions that the system could be applied to vehicles with either a throttle body or an electric motor.

GM also allows for the possibility of monitoring the vehicle with your phone. That could allow you to see what’s going on in the sensors or potentially hail your car from wherever you parked it. It is mildly alarming, though, that the image in the patent application outlining this function misspells the word brake, but pobody’s nerfect.