U.S. plans to rewrite rules that impede self-driving cars
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U.S. plans to rewrite rules that impede self-driving cars

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The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is moving ahead with plans to revise safety rules that bar fully self-driving cars from the roads without equipment like steering wheels, pedals and mirrors, according to the media.

The auto safety agency, known as NHTSA, “intends to reconsider the necessity and appropriateness of its current safety standards” as applied to automated vehicles, the U.S. Transportation Department said.

The standards are contained in an 80-page update of its principles dubbed “Automated Vehicles 3.0” made public on Thursday.

The department disclosed that in an upcoming rule making NHTSA wants public comment “on proposed changes to particular safety standards.

Such standards are to accommodate automated vehicle technologies and the possibility of setting exceptions to certain standards—that are relevant only when human drivers are present” for autonomous vehicles.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who will release the report at an event at the department’s headquarters later, said in the report self-driving cars have the potential to dramatically reduce traffic crashes.

Chao said that it also reduces road deaths, but added the “public has legitimate concerns about the safety, security, and privacy of automated technology.”

Automakers must currently meet nearly 75 auto safety standards, many of which were written with the assumption that a licensed driver will be in control of the vehicle.

General Motors Co (GM.N) in January filed a petition seeking an exemption for the current rules to deploy vehicles without steering wheels and other human controls as part of a ride-sharing fleet it plans to deploy in 2019.

NHTSA has not declared the GM petition complete, a step necessary before it can rule on the merits. NHTSA said it plans to propose modernizing procedures to follow when reviewing exemption petitions.

Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Waymo unit plans to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service for the general public with no human driver behind the steering wheel in Arizona later this year.

But unlike GM, Waymo’s vehicles will have human controls for the time being.

In March, a self-driving Uber Technologies Inc.  vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian, while the backup safety driver was watching a video, police said.

Uber suspended testing in the aftermath and some safety advocates said the crash showed the system was not safe enough to be tested on public roads.

But automakers have warned it could take too long for NHTSA to rewrite the rules to allow for the widespread of adoption of self-driving cars without human controls.

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Updated on September 12, 2018 at 10:15 am