U.S. eliminates human controls requirement for fully automated vehicles

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. regulators on Thursday issued final rules eliminating the need for automated vehicle manufacturers to equip fully autonomous vehicles with manual controls to meet crash standards. There are currently no fully autonomous vehicles for sale.

Automakers and technology companies have faced significant hurdles in deploying vehicles with automated driving systems (ADS) without human control because of safety standards written decades ago that assume humans are in control.

Last month, General Motors Co and its self-driving technology unit Cruise petitioned the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for permission to build and deploy 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, a steering wheel and associated steering column, or only one outer front passenger seat.”

“For vehicles designed to be driven solely by an ADS, there is no logical need for manually operated driving controls,” the agency said.

First proposed in March 2020, the new rules emphasize that automated vehicles must provide the same levels of occupant protection as human-powered vehicles.

“As the driver changes from person to machine in vehicles equipped with ADS, the need to keep people safe remains the same and must be integrated from the start,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff.

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Under the NHTSA’s rule, children are not allowed to occupy the so-called “driver’s position” as the driver’s seating position is not designed to protect children in an accident, but having a child in that seat does not immediately force the car to move. to cease.

NHTSA said existing regulations do not currently prohibit 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 petition NHTSA for an exemption to use their ADS-equipped vehicles. to sell.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Karishma Singh)