NHTSA To Accelerate Autonomous Vehicle Rollouts With Rules Rewrite

Autonomous autos are coming to the masses, eventually, but right now only a handful of states and cities allow the testing of autonomous cars on public roads. To accelerate the rollout of driverless cars, more testing needs to be performed and there are rules and regulations standing in the way of manufacturers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is moving ahead with plans to rewrite rules and remove roadblocks to the autonomous auto future. As it stands now, regulations require certain equipment on any car that drives on the highway.

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These rules prevent autonomous autos from being rolled out that lack things like steering wheels, pedals, and mirrors. The NHTSA indicated it may rewrite those rules with the publication of a document called “Automated Vehicles 3.0” that spans 80 pages and will be made public today. The document states the NHTSA, “intends to reconsider the necessity and appropriateness of its current safety standards.”

The agency does plan to take public comment on its proposed rule changes and may institute changes that are only relevant when a human driver is present. As for why the NHTSA is willing to revamp these rules, the agency feels that self-driving cars have the potential to dramatically reduce traffic fatalities and accidents. However, the agency knows that the public has “legitimate concerns” about safety and security when it comes to autonomous vehicles.

As these rules stand now, there are 75 auto safety standards manufacturers must comply with and many of those were written specifically with the assumption that a driver would be in control of the vehicle. The changes were spurred by GM when it filed a petition to be granted an exemption to existing rules allowing it to build and test vehicles that lack a steering wheel; that petition is not yet declared complete and must be completed before the agency can rule on the merits of the petition. The vehicle GM is requesting the exemption for is the Cruz AV autonomous vehicle that lacks steering wheel and pedals. It’s unclear at this time when any rule changes might go into effect.