Safety watchdog slams NHTSA’s new autonomous car safety regulations

“While the long-term safety value of this midnight rulemaking is yet to be determined, there is no question that over the last four years NHTSA has failed to focus its energy on Congressional safety mandates or other actions that would address the dangers to everyone on the road during the deadliest vehicle safety year in recent history. NHTSA’s insistence of enabling the fast deployment of self-driving vehicles by amending rules written for cars with drivers, instead of recognizing the unique characteristics of autonomous technology, may be the fastest way to authorize the deployment of autonomous vehicles but it is not a consumer safety driven approach,” the group said.

by Gary Gastelu
January 15, 2021

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has updated its automotive safety rules to exempt vehicles with self-driving capability from some passenger safety requirements in an effort to streamline the development of the technology.

Among the changes announced Thursday are the elimination of passenger crash safety standards for vehicles designed to only carry goods and the removal of requirements that vehicles must have a defined driver seat with unique protection, even if they are engineered to be fully autonomous.

“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,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator James Owens said in a press release on the changes.

“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.”

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