U.S. regulators issued final rules eliminating the need for automated vehicle manufacturers to equip fully autonomous vehicles with manual driving controls to meet crash standards.
Automakers and tech companies have faced significant hurdles to deploying automated driving system (ADS) vehicles without human controls because of safety standards written decades ago that assume people are in control.
The rules revise regulations that assume vehicles "will always have a driver's seat, a steering wheel and accompanying steering column, or just one front outboard passenger seating position."
"For vehicles designed to be solely operated by an ADS, manually operated driving controls are logically unnecessary," the agency said.
The new rules, which were first proposed in March 2020, emphasize automated vehicles must provide the same levels of occupant protection as human-driven vehicles.
NHTSA's rule says children should not occupy what is traditionally known as the "driver's" position, given that the driver's seating position has not been designed to protect children in a crash, but if a child is in that seat, the car will not immediately be required to cease motion.
Image: REUTERS/Stephen Lam