On January 14, 2021, Reuters featured comments from the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets on a new rule from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that exempts self-driving cars from some crash standards. Ariel Wolf, counsel in Venable’s Washington, DC office and leader of the firm’s Mobility and Transportation Technology team, serves as counsel to the Self-Driving Coalition.
According to the article, the NHTSA said the rules would exempt from certain crash standards automated vehicles that are designed to carry only goods, not people. The new rules, issued after months of deliberation, would also give a freer hand to manufacturers of passenger-carrying autonomous vehicles to design vehicles without standard controls, including steering wheels.
The Self-Driving Coalition said the rule addresses “barriers to innovation while preserving the important safety protections afforded to vehicle occupants by NHTSA’s current standards.”
It is the first time the agency has made a significant move to remove barriers to deployment of vehicles without traditional human controls - including eliminating the requirement that self-driving vehicles have a driver’s seat. The agency released the text of a single final rule encompassing the changes and signed on January 13, but it is not clear when it will be formally published in the Federal Register.
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