The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to revise safety rules that bar fully self-driving cars from the roads without equipment such as steering wheels, pedals and mirrors, according to a document made public on Thursday.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ‘intends to reconsider the necessity and appropriateness of its current safety standards’ as applied to automated vehicles, the US Department of Transportation said in an 80-page update of its principles dubbed ‘Automated Vehicles 3.0.’
The department, as reported by Reuters earlier on Thursday, disclosed that the NHTSA wants comment ‘on proposed changes to particular safety standards to accommodate automated vehicle technologies and the possibility of setting exceptions to certain standards that are relevant only when human drivers are present.’
US transportation secretary Elaine Chao released the document at a department event. In the report, Chao said that self-driving cars have the potential to dramatically reduce traffic crashes and road deaths. But she added the ‘public has legitimate concerns about the safety, security, and privacy of automated technology.’
Automakers must currently meet nearly 75 auto safety standards, many of which were written with the assumption that a licensed driver will be in control of the vehicle.
General Motors Co in January filed a petition seeking an exemption for the current rules to use vehicles without steering wheels and other human controls as part of a ride-sharing fleet it plans to deploy in 2019.
NHTSA has not declared the GM petition complete, a step necessary before it can rule on the merits. NHTSA said it plans to propose modernising procedures to follow when reviewing exemption petitions.
Alphabet Inc’s Waymo unit plans to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service for the general public with no human driver behind the steering wheel in Arizona later this year. But unlike GM, Waymo’s vehicles will have human controls for the time being.
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