U.S. exempts self-driving vehicles from some crash standards

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The outgoing Trump administration has enacted new rules that would allow automated vehicle manufacturers to bypass some of the crash standards of conventional vehicles, reducing production costs.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on Thursday that the rules would exempt 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 vehicles a free hand 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 on 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 auto and technology industries have long pushed for NHTSA to change existing vehicle safety standards, which have increased 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 that includes Waymo, Ford Motor Co, Uber and others from Alphabet Inc, said the rule ‚Äútackles barriers to innovation while preserving the important safety protections that vehicle occupants under current NHTSA standards. are offered “.

The NHTSA’s last line says it strives to “remove unintended and unnecessary barriers to vehicle design.”

General Motors Co sought approval to use a limited number of cars without steering wheels in a petition filed with the NHTSA in January 2018, but the automaker later dropped that plan.