Outgoing Administration Moves to Lift Safety Restrictions for Some Autonomous Vehicles

Outgoing Administration Moves to Lift Safety Restrictions for Some Autonomous Vehicles

2021-01-15 06:00:49

The outgoing Trump administration said on Thursday that it was enacting new rules that would allow automated vehicle manufacturers to bypass certain crash standards for conventional vehicles, which would reduce production costs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the rules would exempt from certain crash standards for automated vehicles designed to only carry goods, not people. The new rules, enacted after months of reflection, would also give manufacturers of autonomous passenger-carrying vehicles the freedom to design vehicles without standard controls, including steering wheels.

It is the first time that the agency has taken a significant step to remove barriers to the deployment of vehicles without traditional human control – including eliminating the requirement for self-driving vehicles to have a driver's seat.

The agency released the text of a single final line encompassing the changes and signed it Wednesday, but it's not clear when it will be formally published in the federal register.

"We don't want regulation to be an unintended and unnecessary barrier to innovation and improved vehicle safety long before the development of automated technologies," NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said in a statement.

The automotive and technology industry has long put pressure on NHTSA to change existing vehicle safety standards, driving up the cost of automated cars and trucks.

NHTSA estimated that its rule would save automated vehicle manufacturers up to $ 5.8 billion by the year 2050, or about $ 995 per vehicle based on an estimated 5.8 million vehicle production.

The Self-Driving Coalition, a group including Waymo, Ford Motor Co., Uber and others from Alphabet Inc., said the rule "addresses barriers to innovation while maintaining the important safety protections that vehicle occupants under current NHTSA standards. are offered ".

Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said the NHTSA is committed to "upholding the auto industry's priority to remove so-called regulatory barriers to facilitate the introduction of autonomous vehicles."

She argued that the agency should instead establish "common sense rules" with minimum performance standards for autonomous driving systems.

(Reported by Joe White and David Shepardson; adapted by Chizu Nomiyama, Dan Grebler, and Lincoln Feast.)

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