For the driverless car, features like steering wheels, rear view mirrors, warning lights and turn signal knobs are unnecessary. Auto regulations are therefore grappling with whether to allow human driver features to be removed from self driving cars.
General Motors made a request for a two-year temporary waiver of some safety features with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in January 2018. A call for public comment closed last month . The NHTSA has made it clear:
“One of the Department’s priorities is to prepare for the future by engaging with new technology while addressing legitimate public concerns about safety, security, and privacy, without hampering innovation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, FMCSA, does not believe it is necessary to revise the law to accommodate Levels 1-3 equipment because commercial operators must be present at all times. However, these laws are not needed when automated driving systems have complete control of the vehicle. Laws no longer required would include: requirement to have a human driver; commercial driver licensing; hours of driving rules; and medical qualifications.
Conversely, FMCSA is looking at whether the type of material transported by self driving cars should be restricted. This would include hazardous materials in motorcoaches, multi-trailer or longer combination vehicles.
The reduction in safety laws to allow innovation in driverless technology is necessary to improve safety. This applies to automated vehicles at levels 4 and 5, which will no longer require the human driver.