Self-driving carmakers urge regulators to whiff the steering wheel out the window
The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
Safety advocates are urging the NHTSA to take its time in deliberating these changes. For example, the Center for Auto Safety “strongly question[s]” the NHTSA’s decision to prioritize these rule changes considering self-driving cars are still in their “infancy and quite likely decades away from widespread practical utility.”
The federal government should rewrite the safety rules for automobile manufacturing so self-driving carmakers can deploy vehicles without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals, according to public comments submitted by top car and tech companies.
And they should be quick about it.
“We urge [the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration] to move ahead promptly to remove the regulatory barriers the agency has identified,” David Quinalty, head of federal policy and government affairs at Waymo, wrote in a letter posted online on Thursday.
The letter is in response to a request for public comment by the NHTSA to a proposal it made last May to amend the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, a list of 75 rules that automakers must follow before selling cars to customers. Currently, those rules state that cars need to have controls such as a steering wheel and pedals.
But self-driving cars may not need these controls, proponents say, and the rules could be a hindrance to the technology being widely released at scale. Waymo and others like Cruise, the self-driving division of GM, and Ford hope to inevitably release tens of thousands of driverless cars without any human controls. Only by cutting the human completely out of the equation can an autonomous vehicle operate safely, these companies argue. And the NHTSA is considering rewriting the rules so self-driving car companies like Waymo can release cars without those features.
Waymo’s letter is full of language like “promptly,” “should move rapidly,” and “urges NHTSA not to await” the completion of other third-party research into autonomous technology. The message it sends is one of urgency: the government needs to drop everything and change the damn rules already.
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