The US eliminates the need for human controls for fully automated vehicles

An attendee takes a selfie in a Cruise Origin autonomous vehicle during the unveiling in San Francisco
A participant takes a selfie inside an autonomous vehicle from Cruise Origin, a self-driving car partnership between Honda and General Motors, during its unveiling in San Francisco, California, U.S. January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

March 11, 2022

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. regulators on Thursday issued final rules that exempt automated vehicle manufacturers from the need to equip fully autonomous vehicles with manual driving controls to meet crash standards.

Automakers and technology companies have faced significant hurdles in deploying automated driving system (ADS) vehicles without human control, since safety standards were written decades ago that assume humans are in control.

Last month, General Motors Co and its self-driving technology unit Cruise applied to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for permission to build and operate a self-driving vehicle without human controls such as steering wheels or brake pedals.

The rules revise regulations that assume vehicles “will always have a driver’s seat, steering wheel and associated steering column, or just a front outboard seating position.”

“For vehicles that are designed exclusively for operation with an ADS, manually operated driving controls are logically unnecessary,” the agency said.

The new rules, first proposed in March 2020, emphasize that automated vehicles must offer the same level of occupant protection as human-powered vehicles.

“When the driver transitions from a person to a machine in ADS-equipped vehicles, the need to keep people safe remains the same and needs to be integrated from the start,” said NHTSA Assistant Administrator Steven Cliff.

NHTSA rule states that children should not occupy the seat traditionally known as the “driver” because the driver’s seating position is not designed to protect children in an accident, but if a child is in this seat, the car will not be protected immediately required to stop the movement.

The NHTSA said existing regulations don’t currently preclude the use of automated vehicles as long as they have manual driving controls, and as it continues to consider changing other safety standards, manufacturers may still need to apply to the NHTSA for an exemption for selling theirs with ADS equipped vehicles.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Karishma Singh) The US eliminates the need for human controls for fully automated vehicles


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