After years of development and anticipation, driverless cars are one step closer to hitting the road. On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a rule change that updates Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) to allow for fully autonomous vehicles without a traditional steering wheel or pedals. This is a major regulatory shift that paves the way for driverless cars to be mass-produced and widely used.
What is the FMVSS?
The FMVSS is a comprehensive set of regulations that inform virtually every aspect of production cars. The standards mandate things like windshield wiper placement and motor speeds, as well as more safety-critical items such as the presence of a driver's seat, steering wheel, and pedals.
These items have always been required because of the way that vehicles have worked. With a driver in control, it was necessary to have features like a steering wheel and pedals so that the car could be navigated. The standardization of those controls was important because it allowed drivers to move from one vehicle to another without much confusion.
But with autonomous cars, these controls are no longer necessary. That's why the NHTSA has updated the FMVSS to allow for fully driverless cars without them. This is an important step towards making autonomous vehicles mainstream and reducing traffic fatalities. In 2017, there were over 37,000 traffic fatalities in the US - but with autonomous cars, we can start to bring those numbers down.
The FMVSS change comes as part of a broader effort by the Department of Transportation to promote innovation in transportation. Other recent initiatives include a proposed rulemaking on drones and new guidance on automated trucks.
What is the rule change?
The rule change allows for cars to be manufactured without traditional controls like a steering wheel or pedals, as long as they meet all other safety requirements. This means that driverless cars can finally be mass-produced and sold to the public.
It's important to note that this does not mean that all driverless cars will immediately be hitting the roads. There are still many hurdles to overcome before autonomous vehicles are ready for widespread use, such as developing the technology, getting approval from individual states, and managing liability issues.
But the NHTSA's rule change is a crucial step in making driverless cars a reality, and it's sure to accelerate the development of this transformative technology.
Why is the rule change important?
This rule change comes after years of development and testing of driverless car technology by companies like Google, Tesla, and Uber. It is an important milestone in the deployment of this transformative technology, and it will have far-reaching implications for the future of transportation.
The rule change is important because it clears the way for driverless cars to become a regular part of our lives. With no need for a human driver, autonomous vehicles can be designed with much more flexibility, leading to increased safety, efficiency, and affordability.
This regulatory shift is also in line with the Administration's broader goal of promoting innovation and technological advancements.
When will driverless cars be on the road?
It's difficult to say exactly when driverless cars will hit the road en masse, but this latest development is a major step forward. We can expect to see them gradually becoming more common over the next few years. Stay tuned!