US DoT rules now account for occupant safety in AVs

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The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a first-of-its-kind final rule relating to the safety of occupants in autonomous vehicles. The rule updates the occupant-protection-related Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to account for vehicles that do not have the traditional manual controls.

“Through the 2020s, an important part of USDOT’s safety mission will be to ensure safety standards keep pace with the development of automated driving and driver assistance systems,” said US transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg. “This new rule is an important step, establishing robust safety standards for ADS-equipped vehicles.”

“As the driver changes from a person to a machine in ADS-equipped vehicles, the need to keep the humans safe remains the same and must be integrated from the beginning,” added Dr Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s deputy administrator. “With this rule, we ensure that manufacturers put safety first.”

Previously, occupant protection standards were written for traditional vehicle features, including steering wheels and other manual controls. The new rule updates the standards to clarify what is required of manufacturers when applying the standards to ADS-equipped vehicles without traditional manual controls. It also clarifies that, despite their innovative designs, vehicles with ADS technology must continue to provide the same high levels of occupant protection as current passenger vehicles.

The rule is available here.

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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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