Regulators will "carefully and responsibly" review General Motors' request to test an autonomous car without a steering wheel, US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Sunday.
"It is now coming to the stage with the rapid advancement of self-driving technology that this request is now a reality," Chao said on the sidelines of the Detroit Auto Show.
"So we will view the petition carefully and responsibly."
GM on Friday unveiled the Cruise AV, an autonomous vehicle with no steering wheel or pedals, announcing it had asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to exempt it from a number of federal standards that cannot be met with a driverless car.
GM executives have said they planned to introduce a large-scale fleet of self-driving taxis by 2019, a timeframe some analysts consider ambitious.
GM released images of the Cruise AV and video of the interior with a strikingly spacious windshield devoid of a steering wheel.
"It's quite a striking image when people see it for the first time," GM president Dan Ammann told AFP on the sidelines of a GM event Saturday.
"I think people will want to engage with the technology and understand it and experience it," Ammann said.
"But I think what's really most powerful about what the technology can offer is an increase in safety on the road. And once people understand that and see and experience it, we think the adoption will be there."
"Its hard to generalize" about whether the public is ready for autonomous cars, Ammann said. "Some people are more than ready. And other people will be watching and seeing how it evolves."