The Trump Administration issued final rules Thursday that will allow self-driving vehicle manufacturers to skip certain federal crash safety requirements in vehicles that aren't designed to carry people.
It marks the first major update to existing federal safety standards to accommodate innovations in driverless technology. While no fully autonomous vehicles are for sale for consumers now, industry experts expect that market share for self-driving cars and trucks will expand in the coming decade.
The rule — months in the making — also allows manufacturers more leeway to design self-driving vehicles without controls meant for human drivers, such as steering wheels or pedals.
It's expected to bring major cost savings to automakers. The
"With more than 90% of serious crashes caused by driver error, it's vital that we remove unnecessary barriers to technology that could help save lives," NHTSA Deputy Administrator
"We do not want regulations enacted long before the development of automated technologies to present an unintended and unnecessary barrier to innovation and improved vehicle safety."
The rule is likely the first of many aimed at speeding the deployment of self-driving vehicles. The agency noted, for example, that it is not yet changing any requirements related to warning signals, which the agency is still researching, vehicle-to-vehicle compatibility, which isn't addressed in existing standards for cars with drivers, or unconventional seating arrangements, which also require more research.
"It took a lot of work on the part of NHTSA and we hope it's the first of several rulemakings that are forthcoming," he said.
Safety advocates, however, have warned that self-driving vehicles need tailored rules aimed at protecting consumers in addition to exemptions from regulations designed for vehicles with human drivers.
"NHTSA's insistence of enabling the fast deployment of self-driving vehicles by amending rules written for cars with drivers, instead of recognizing the unique characteristics of autonomous technology, may be the fastest way to authorize the deployment of autonomous vehicles but it is not a consumer safety driven approach," he said.
NHTSA has faced criticism from safety advocates in recent years for implementing voluntary guidelines for manufacturers of self-driving vehicles, such as optional participation in a reporting system intended to track how developing vehicles perform in a dozen safety tests that are recommended by federal regulators. Critics argue the assessments should be mandatory and transparency required to increase public trust in self-driving vehicles.
(c)2021 The Detroit News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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