Ford and Argo AI have been hard at work developing autonomous vehicle technology for the past several years, conducting self-driving research trials, opening a smart parking lab in Detroit, partnering with Walmart for AV deliveries, delivering food to those in need autonomously, and teaming up with Google at Michigan Central Station on AV software projects. However, many concerns and questions remain about AV technology, which recently prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to consider tweaking its five-star safety ratings, and now, the agency has finalized a rule for autonomous vehicles that lack driver controls.
Today’s ruling updates the occupant protection Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to account for vehicles that lack the traditional manual controls associated with a human driver because they are equipped with automated driving systems (ADS). The final rule clarifies that vehicles with ADS technology must continue to provide the same levels of occupant protection as regular passenger vehicles, which wasn’t previously the case.
Last year, the NHTSA issued a Standing General Order requiring crash and incident reporting for vehicles equipped with ADS or certain advanced driver-assistance systems, and also initiated rulemaking to set safety standards for automatic emergency braking.
“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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This new rule is an important step, establishing robust safety standards for ADS-equipped vehicles.”
“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,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator. “With this rule, we ensure that manufacturers put safety first.”