March 7, 2021
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a final rule on January 13 to modernize numerous Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and clarify “ambiguities” in current occupant protection standards to cover vehicles equipped with automated driving systems designed without traditional manual driver controls.

[Above photo by Argo/Ford.]

The new rule also amends several crashworthiness regulations to clarify safety standards for automated vehicles equipped without manual driver controls, NHTSA noted, while exempting automated vehicles not designed to carry any human occupants – including human drivers – from crashworthiness standards.

However, the agency stressed that this new rule does not change existing occupant protection requirements for traditional vehicles with manual driver controls.

“With more than 90 percent of serious crashes caused by driver error, it’s vital that we remove unnecessary barriers to technology that could help save lives,” explained James Owens, the former deputy administrator for NHTSA, in a statement.

“We do not want regulations enacted long before the development of automated technologies to present an unintended and unnecessary barrier to innovation and improved vehicle safety,” he added.

editor@aashto.org

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