NHTSA Issues Final Rule for Autonomous Vehicles

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In an effort to continue putting drivers’ safety first, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has issued a final rule that calls for autonomous vehicles to follow the same safety standards as manually controlled vehicles.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has issued a final rule designed to “ensure safety of occupants in automated vehicles.” According to a press release by the agency, the new rule serves as an update to existing standards, accounting for vehicles without the same manual controls. 

As a report by TechCrunch explains, the rule updates “terminology in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to reflect the spatial layout of automated vehicles.” Those older rules were written with traditional vehicle control technology, such as steering wheels, in mind; the update clarifies how standards for that technology applies to more innovative technology, and updates terms like “passenger seat” and “driver’s seat” for vehicles without traditionally understood passengers and drivers. It follows a 2021 NHTSA order that companies which manufacture and operate autonomous vehicles report car crashes to the NHTSA. That 2021 order in turn followed a 2021 effort that permitted “states and companies to submit information about AV testing that can be viewed by the public.” The new rule reflects the need for autonomous vehicles to abide by the same rigorous safety standards as manually controlled vehicles.

In a statement about the rule, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said: “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… This new rule is an important step, establishing robust safety standards for ADS-equipped vehicles.”

NHTSA Deputy Administrator, Dr. Steven Cliff, added in another statement: “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… With this rule, we ensure that manufacturers put safety first.”

More information on the NHTSA’s final rule for autonomous vehicles is available via the NHTSA and TechCrunch.

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