NHTSA to consider revised self-driving safety rules

October 31, 2017

The NHTSA says it wants companies that are currently developing self-driving technology to point out “unnecessary regulatory barriers to automated safety technologies.”

The request is part of an ongoing effort to adapt the rules that govern the safety of automobiles to a future where drivers are no longer needed. NHTSA also will request commentary from the industry on the direction of its future research, as it embarks on forming its own dataset on self-driving safety issues.

In line with the government’s new direction, the Senate Commerce Committee and the U.S. House have both passed similar measures in recent weeks, that would grant automakers temporary exemptions from existing NHTSA regulations to produce up to 80,000 self-driving vehicles each year.

At issue are safety regulations put in place over the years that don’t take modern technical advancements into account, including requirements for certain like a steering wheel and brake pedal. As auto manufacturers and some technology companies move toward fully self-driving vehicles, such controls could eventually become inconsequential to the operation of a car, and patents are already in place for the development of cars without them.

In September, the U.S. Department of Transportation moved to establish voluntary (read: not enforceable by law) safety guidelines for manufacturers as they continue to test self-driving cars on public roads. The deregulation sparked heated debate between safety advocacy groups and the businesses developing the technology, with the former decrying the government’s abdication of responsibility, and the latter praising the new “streamlined” rules.

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