Feds Want Faster Rollout of Self-Driving Cars

U.S. agency proposes changes to safety rules to speed up production.

March 19, 2020

WASHINGTON—The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing major changes to U.S. safety requirements that could speed up the introduction of self-driving vehicles without human controls, Reuters reports.

The agency is proposing to rewrite 11 safety standards that require traditional manual control “by revising the requirements and test procedures to account for the removal of manually-operated driving controls.”

General Motors, Alphabet’s Waymo, Uber and Ford Motor are currently testing self-driving cars. NHTSA wants to revise rules for occupant protection, steering controls, glazing materials, door locks, seating systems, side impact protection, roof crush resistance and child restraint anchorage systems.

Jason Levine, head of the Center for Auto Safety, criticized NHTSA for making this move during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency should not “remove regulatory safeguards for technology even DOT acknowledges has not been proven and may in fact be unsafe,” he said.

Despite extensive publicity, the self-driving-car concept has yet to gain widespread consumer acceptance. Recent crashes involving driverless vehicles have raised doubts about their readiness for public roads. The agency’s proposal will be open for public comment before it can be finalized.