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US removes human control requirement for fully autonomous vehicles

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. regulators on Thursday issued final rules that eliminate the need for automated vehicle manufacturers to fully equip self-driving car with manual driving controls to meet crash standards. There are currently no fully self-driving vehicles for sale.

Automakers and technology companies have faced significant obstacles in deploying vehicles with autonomous driving systems (ADS) without human control because of standards Safety standards put in place decades ago assumed that people were in control.

Last month, General Motors Co and its self-driving technology unit Cruise petitioned the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for permission to build and deploy self-driving car without human control such as a steering wheel or brake pedal.

The revised rules assume that vehicles “will always have a driver’s seat, steering wheel and steering column attached, or only one seat in front of the passenger.”

“For vehicles designed to be operated solely by an ADS, logically manually operated driving controls are not required,” the agency said.

The new rules, first proposed in March 2020, emphasize autonomous vehicles must provide the same level of occupant protection as human-driven vehicles.

“As the driver changes from a person to a machine in ADS-equipped vehicles, the need to keep people safe remains the same and must be integrated from the start,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff said.

NHTSA’s rules say that children must not occupy the traditional so-called “driver’s seat” position, because the driver’s seat position is not designed to protect children in a crash, but if children sit in that seat, the car will not immediately. request to stop moving.

NHTSA says current regulations do not prohibit the deployment of autonomous vehicles as long as they have a manual driving control system, and as it continues to consider changing other safety standards, manufacturers may still need to petition NHTSA to exempt the sale of their ADS-equipped vehicles.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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