The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a proposed regulation that would update federal motor vehicle safety standards for certain vehicles equipped with automated driving systems (ADS).
The proposed regulation, formally published March 30, 2020 and available here, would revise safety requirements, including crashworthiness 200 Series federal safety standards, for ADS vehicles that lack traditional manual driving controls, such as a steering wheel. The regulation would require, among other things, front passenger protection standards for the traditional driver seating position in an ADS vehicle with no steering wheel. The regulation also addresses the applicability of certain occupant protection requirements to vehicles with no seating compartment (citing as an example driverless commercial delivery vehicles), though occupant protection standards for vehicles with manual driving controls would not change.
Per NHTSA, the proposed regulation is an “historic first step” in the agency’s mission to remove “unnecessary and unintended barriers to innovative vehicles designs.” The draft regulation is one of several regulatory actions now under NHTSA consideration as part of its efforts to adapt current federal vehicle standards to ADS vehicles.
Public comments on the proposed regulation should be submitted by May 29, 2020. NHTSA will then consider the comments and presumably publish a final regulation, although there is no timetable for the agency to do so.