NHTSA safety standards for vehicles without manual controls

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Vehicles with automated driving systems without traditional manual controls have been given the go-ahead by proposals from US regulators.

The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued proposals on Tuesday, March 17, to modernize safety standards and clarify ambiguities in occupant safety standards.

Elaine Chao, US secretary of transportation, said, “This proposal seeks public comment on the Department’s efforts to improve safety and update rules that no longer make sense such as requiring manual driving controls on autonomous vehicles.”

The proposal seeks to adapt safety requirements to vehicles with ADS without traditional manual controls by revising rules and procedures to remove manually operated driving controls.

The notice proposes applying frontal passenger protection requirements to the traditional driver seating position when a steering wheel is not present.

It clarifies the application of some occupant protection standards to vehicles with no occupant compartment such as occupant-less delivery vehicles.

James Owens, acting administrator of NHTSA, said, “With more than 90% of serious crashes caused by driver error, it’s vital that we remove unnecessary barriers to technology that could help save lives. We do not want regulations enacted long before the development of automated technologies to present an unintended and unnecessary barrier against innovation and improved highway safety.”

The proposals will not change existing occupant protection requirements for vehicles with manual controls.

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