NHTSA updates rules surrounding AV crashworthiness standards

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The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a final rule to modernize numerous Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and sought to clarify ambiguities in current occupant protection standards, for vehicles equipped with automated driving systems designed without traditional manual driver controls.

The rule amends several crashworthiness regulations to clarify safety standards for automated vehicles equipped without manual driver controls. It also exempts automated vehicles designed never to carry any human occupants, including human drivers, from crashworthiness standards.

“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,” said NHTSA deputy administrator James Owens. “We do not want regulations enacted long before the development of automated technologies to present an unintended and unnecessary barrier to innovation and improved vehicle safety.”

The rule will not change existing occupant protection requirements for traditional vehicles with manual driver controls. NHTSA’s notes that its final rule is one of a series of regulatory actions that it has taken to further modernize vehicle standards for new technologies.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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